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PM decries IK’s diatribe against parliamentary democracy

ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday said that Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf leader Imran Khan’s recent diatribe against parliamentary democracy was the latest in a series of attacks that flew in the face of how democracy functioned in modern nation-states.
On his Twitter handle, the prime minister said that PTI leader’s politics were aimed at making his way to power, even if it meant undermining foundations this country stood on.

HEC invites innovative start-ups to apply for Innovator Seed Fund Grant

ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 (APP): The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has invited innovative start-ups owned by students, alumni, faculty members, or researchers from public or private sector universities to apply for the Innovator Seed Fund (ISF) Grant.

According to the HEC, the ISF, envisioned for the development of innovation and start-up ecosystem in Pakistan, is a flagship initiative of the commission under the Higher Education Development in Pakistan Project (HEDP).

The ISF is anticipated to support the development of fledgling start-ups having innovative ideas through the provision of seed funding grants, to transform them into successful and sustainable enterprises.

The grant package includes up to USD 35,000 in seed funding, stretched over start-ups proposed budgetary requirements for activities, including but not limited to entrepreneurial training, legal or financial, or marketing training and support, among other services.

About the applicant eligibility, the HEC conveyed that the lead applicant must either be a student, alumni or faculty member, or researcher of the higher education institutions (public or private) and must have endorsement from one of the HEC-established 35 Business Incubation Centers across the country.

The lead applicant must have an SECP-registered business concern, ensuring the legal status and promising potential of the start-up.

The priority sectors for ISF support include but are not limited to Agriculture, Food Resources and Agri Tech, Banking; Microfinance and FinTech; Creative, Digital Media, Arts and Culture; Education and EdTech; E-commerce and Smart Retail; Emerging Technologies; Health Care and Health Tech; Housing, Construction and Manufacturing; Sustainable Development, Climate, and Energy; Transportation and Logistics.

The innovative ideas or concept notes on the prescribed application template must be submitted through HEC online portal http://www.rfi.hec.gov.pk. The deadline for submission of the application submission is January 06, 2023.

Thailand-Pakistan trade volume reaches over $1.8 billion: Ambassador Chakkrid

ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 (APP): Ambassador of Thailand to Pakistan Chakkrid Krachaiwong has said that the bilateral trade volume between Pakistan and Thailand has reached $1.8 billion.

Addressing the celebration ceremony of the 95th National Day of the Kingdom of Thailand, he said that our bilateral trade volume would reach to highest record as this September has already reached 6 percent higher than the previous year and both countries were focusing on exploring more avenues of trade and investments in multiple sectors.

He said that “We have received the good news that Pakistani businessman who joined Rawalpindi Chamber of commerce’s trip to Thailand has invested in buying two hotels in Phuket” which is a good sign for increasing bilateral investments.

The Ambassador added that Thailand and Pakistan have celebrated the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. However, linkages between our two countries dated back more than 2,000 years ago. Taxila has been mentioned in Thai student books and plays.
The Ambassador emphasized that as a friend, Thailand will work hand in hand with Pakistan to achieve our common goals for the benefit of our people as well as the people of the world.

Speaking about the people-to-people exchanges, he said that Thai Airways has decided to resume its direct flights to all three major cities including Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi.

The number of flights would also be increased from just once a week to several times a week. He said from the last many years, Thailand proud to host travelers from Pakistan for vacations and Thai Food.

Explaining the importance of ASEAN, the Ambassador said that Thailand with the support of other member states in Islamabad has worked closely to enhance multi-faceted cooperation with Pakistan.

ASEAN desks have been established at Rawalpindi and Islamabad Chamber of Commerce to facilitate business people who wish to seek information about doing business in ASEAN, he added.

Highlighting the significance of the national day, he said that the 5th of December is an important day for Thai people as they commemorate the National Day of the Kingdom of Thailand, the Birthday Anniversary of the late King Bhumibol, and Thailand’s Father’s Day.

The 5th of December is also recognized by the UN as “World Soil Day” to acknowledge the late King’s remarkable contributions to soil science for the improvement of the livelihood of people.

Anti-polio target achieved in high-risk areas of Rawalpindi district

RAWALPINDI, Dec 04 (APP): A week-long anti-polio campaign, which began in three tehsils of the district, including Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation and Cantonments areas, concluded successfully.

In charge of the anti-polio drive, Ch Muhammad Hussain told APP that around 3,787 polio teams, 858 area in-charges, and 243 medical officers participated in the campaign.

Besides the door-to-door administration of polio vaccine, children were also immunized at 320 fixed centres and 182 transit points in the district.

Hussain informed that as many as 805,393 children under five years of age were administered anti-polio drops during the campaign launched in 163 union councils of the Rawalpindi district.

He added that the drive had been launched in tehisls Rawalpindi, Gujjar Khan, Taxila, Rawalpindi city, and cantonments which were declared high-risk areas.

Hussain said the drive had also created awareness about COVID-19, smog, and anti-dengue preventive measures.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Shoaib Ali directed polio teams to follow up on polio refusal or unattended cases.

He said polio was a national issue, and it was the responsibility of all to play an influential role in making the country polio-free.

Sindh a land of rich culture, history: US Consul General

KARACHI, Dec 04 (APP): Consul General of US Consulate General Karachi Nicole Theriot, while felicitating on the Sindhi Culture Day, has said that Sindh is a land of rich culture and history.

On the official Twitter account of the US Consulate Karachi, she wrote: “The people of Sindh have created an inclusive and tolerant society. On this Sindh Cultural day being celebrated on December 04, the United States wishes the people of Sindh and Pakistan peace and prosperity.”

Nicole Theriot, with Sindhi Ajrak on her shoulders, also appeared in a video shared on the official Twitter account of the US Consulate in Karachi.

She said in her video message: “Today, we join Pakistanis to celebrate Sindh Cultural Day. We do it with the understanding that many are still recovering from the plight of the devastating floods this year. This day, we commemorate Sindh’s rich history and culture.

“I thank the people of Sindh for your warmth and hospitality as I continue to learn more about Sindhi history, poetry, and culture.

“On behalf of everyone at the US Consulate in Karachi, I wish you a happy Sindh Cultural Day, and remind you that the people and government of the United States stands with the flood-affected people of Sindh and Balochistan in these difficult times.”

The video also featured other officials of the US Consulate in Karachi, cladded in traditional Sindhi attires, and extending felicitation on the Sindi Cultural Day in Sindhi language.

“Sindh Jo Saqaafati Dihaarho Mubarak Hujy! The US Consulate in Karachi wishes you all a very Happy Sindhi Cultural Day,” Nicole Theriot concluded.

PM felicitates Sindh people on culture day celebrations

PM felicitates Sindh people on culture day celebrations

ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday felicitated the people of Sindh on celebrating their cultural day.

On his Twitter handle, the prime minister said the civilization of Sindh province had been adding the beauty of its cultural colours to the regional and human civilizations for centuries.

“Today is the culture day of Bab-e-Islam, Sindh, a day to highlight the beauty of one component of federation,” he added.

Sindh culture day is being observed in the province and other parts of the country on Sunday.

Ministry completes all arrangements to organize Int’l Real Estate Expo

ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 (APP): The Ministry of Housing and Works has completed all the arrangements to organize the first ever ‘International Housing and Real Estate Expo’ on December 8 to promote the real estate business in the country, besides ensuring safe and secure housing for the people.

“A four-day expo will be organized in collaboration with other relevant ministries, agencies, organizations, and authorities to encourage the approved housing projects and uplift the construction sector in the country,” an official in the Ministry told APP.

He said that the people associated with the real estate and housing industry across the country would participate in the exhibition.

The stall was allocated to all the real estate developers, housing societies, real estate consultants, and construction material-related industries.

The main objective of the expo is to create awareness among the masses on approved real estate in the country, he added.

The official said that the Ministry would also allocate the stalls to those whose housing projects and companies were approved by the government, taxpayers, and companies with No Objection Certificates (NoCs) from relevant authorities.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Housing and Works Iftikhar Ali Shallwani told that the construction sector was the biggest provider of job opportunities for it has several other industries attached to it.

“It was a fundamental right of everyone to have secure and safe housing, and the ministry intended to organize the event to achieve this purpose,” he added.

Iftikhar Shallwani said different stalls would be set up by the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority (FGEHA), Pakistan Housing Authority Foundation (PHAF), and the country’s major builders, developers, and marketing companies.

The Secretary said that he had also extended a cordial invitation to the ambassadors of different countries to participate in the upcoming expo and avail the opportunities in the housing sector which were offered by the present government.

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Effective measures likely to eradicate polio from Pakistan by 2023: UNICEF

ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 (APP): A senior UNICEF official said the polio program in Pakistan was back on track and hoped that the crippling disease will be eradicated from the country by end of 2023 following effective measures to check its spread.

Regional Director for South Asia George Laryea-Adjei in an exclusive interview with APP, said the current data suggested that virus was now under control in the country.

“We are using all available resources and services at our disposal to reach every girl and boy in Pakistan with lifesaving vaccines and protect them against the entirely preventable disease,” he said.

Appreciating efforts of over 350,000 health workers traveling to all parts of the country to administer doses of the vaccine to every child, he said, “the program is back on track to stop all wild polio virus transmission in 2023,”.
George Laryea-Adjei said Pakistan was in a much better position today to eradicate polio than a year ago. However, there were challenges that hampered the efforts to eliminate the virus completely.

He expressed concern over the attack on polio and health workers in some parts of Pakistan and lauded the courage of polio teams.

He also appreciated efforts of polio eradication endeavors of the government recalling that Pakistan was the first country to launch an ambitious program for training its health workers to support national immunization programmes.

Highlighting the challenges , he said that the onslaught of back-to-back disasters – drought, heatwaves, floods and acts of violence continued to put millions of children’s lives at risk in Pakistan.

He said the recent catastrophic floods destroyed vital health facilities and exacerbated health risks for millions of children, especially those living in districts historically at the highest risk for polio.

The UNICEF, Regional Director said, UNICEF had been working with the government, UN agencies and NGO partners from day one of the flood to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable children and families, in 54 of the 90 calamity hit districts.

In the health sector, he said 110 mobile health teams were providing critical health services to children, women, and adolescents and UNICEF was also assisting the national measles and rubella vaccination campaigns for children under the age of five in flood affected districts.

Moreover, UNICEF was working for water, sanitation and hygiene in the flood-affected areas as well.

“We are delivering over two million litres of safe drinking water to the flood-affected communities,” he said.

The UNICEF also built toilets and distributed hygiene and menstrual hygiene management kits, besides installing new taps and repairing critical water networks destroyed by the floods.

UNICEF established over 600 temporary learning centres to provide safe spaces for children to learn and play in the education centres, he said while highlighting his organization’s endeavours.

Divulging details of the activities of UNICEF in northern Pakistan at the outset of winters, he said UNICEF procured 16,000 warm clothing kits for children up to 12 years of age which were being dispatched for distribution in snowbound areas of Balochistan, KP provinces and Gilgit Baltistan region.
Moreover, around 15,000 blankets have been distributed in KP and Balochistan provinces, he added.

Referring to impact of climate change, he said “The impact is profound throughout South Asia and in 2022 alone, climate-induced floods in Pakistan, Bangladesh, northern India, and Afghanistan left over 15 million boys and girls in need of assistance.”
He pointed that summers were getting hotter, glaciers melting, sea levels rising, and landslides sweeping away homes and schools..

The regional director said Pakistan was already a ‘climate hotspot’ before the current emergency broke out.
According to UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index, children in Pakistan were at ‘extremely high risk’ to the impacts of climate change, ranking 14th out of 163 countries and regions.
Since April, Pakistan has been hit by a series of extreme weather events. There was no spring this year, with the country going from winter directly into a scorching summer. Temperatures reached over 50 degrees Celsius in some areas of the country followed by catastrophic floods.

He said these reoccurring and escalating climate catastrophes were directly threatening children lives and destroying infrastructure critical to their well-being.

First and foremost, global leaders must urgently limit global heating to 1.5 degree Celsius as this was the only way to save children’s life, he suggested.
“We must prepare children to live in climate changed world through climate change education and green skills training,” he added.

Air pollution posing threat to human lives

By Fakhar Alam

PESHAWAR, Dec 04 (APP): Abid Ahmad (50), a poor driver of the container is battling for their life at Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) after he was diagnosed with acute pneumonia and respiratory infections caused by air pollution and COVID-19.

Doctors were making efforts to save the life of the poor Abid, who was on a ventilator for nearly 35 days at the Pulmonology ward of LRH after his condition got deteriorated in a private hospital.

Standing in front of the bed of his ill-fated father, Ahmad Khan, a resident of Mera Kachori Peshawar with stretched hands praying for his early recovery said, “My Baba who was a driver of a cargo container, was complaining about shortness of breath since last few months and often sit on the ground after walking few yards in a bid to restore his oxygen.” “Last month, we rushed him to a private hospital where he was diagnosed with acute respiratory infections and referred him to LRH.”

“Abid’s condition was serious. We put him on a ventilator after his oxygen level has significantly dropped due to acute pneumonia and aggravated asthma coupled with symptoms of air pollution and COVID-19,” said Dr. Anila Basit, Associated Professor, Pulmonology Department LRH while talking to APP.

She said the air pollution coupled with pneumonia had severely damaged his both lungs due to which he fell prey to the corona due to low immunity. Terming air pollution a serious threat to human lives, the senior pulmonologist said it could affect people of all age groups especially children and elder citizens, adding air pollution reduced lung growth and functions in children besides leading to respiratory chest infections, lung cancers, coronary heart diseases, strokes and asthma that often cause premature deaths if untreated.

“Air pollution was the major cause of stillbirth and preterm births besides less cognitive IQ and acute respiratory infections in children. I advised people to use face masks and adopt safe energy resources to improve the air quality index.”

Referring to the WHO report 2021, Dr. Anila said around seven million people die every year worldwide due to excessive use of hazardous gas emissions mostly by industrial units, brick kilns, vehicular traffic, and other means of air pollution.

In Pakistan, about 128,000 deaths were reported every year due to pollution-related diseases, according to a recent report of Fair Finance Pakistan, a non-government organization working to combat climate change.

According to the NGO, Pakistan, China and India account for the highest number of deaths owing to air pollution as millions across these countries were forced to breathe air that contains high levels of hazardous pollutants and Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) level pollution.

Ikhtair Wali Khan, Pakistan Muslim League-N KP spokesman and member provincial assembly said that Peshawarties were exposed to inhaling poor air quality due to a lack of vision and improper planning of the provincial government to combat the menace of air pollution and climate change.

Known for the fragrance of Gul-e-Dawodi in December, he said Peshawar was currently engulfed by thick smoke mostly being emitted by thousands of unregistered rickshaws, taxis, and unfit public transport while brick kilns, marble crushing units, and industries were additional contributors to air pollution.

He accused the previous PTI government of axing thousands of trees, and plants and destroying green belts in Peshawar for paving way for an ill-planned bus rapid transit (BRT) project, which further aggravated the gravity of the situation.

Muhammad Irshad, Chief Analyst, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 pollution in Peshawar was reported higher than limits set by National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) and its bigger impact on public health was much more than that.

PM 2.5 pollution was a complex mixture of extremely small particles that stays for a longer period in the air and once inhaled can affect people’s hearts, stomachs, and lungs leading to strokes, asthma, cancer, and other chronic diseases. He said about 60 percent of pollution was being contributed by vehicles and rickshaws in Peshawar.

EPA conducted a scientific study with help of SUPARCO in 2017-18 at different locations of Peshawar where dust and pollution were measured in the air between five to 10 feet in height where PM 2.5 was almost four times higher than NEQS standards.

He said the study noted about 52mg/m3 higher dust and smoke particulate in the air while normally it should be around 15mg/m3 as per NEQS standards. He said the Bank of Khyber has established 20 air quality monitoring stations in KP including Peshawar.

Dr. Aftab Ahmed, Director of Livestock and Dairy Development said plastic pollution was more dangerous than air pollution as the former might transmit to people through eating animals and fish flesh. He explained that once it entered in the human body, the affected person would not feel hungry like a healthy person, and could be fatal with time.

Faridullah Khan, Deputy Director EPA KP said the shifting of brick kilns on Zigzag has started in the province, and two brick kilns one each at Och canal in Peshawar and Jalala Mardan were converted to this technology. He said 400,000 bricks can be prepared in 20 cycles under Zigzag compared to 300,000 bricks in 40 cycles in a common brick kiln unit.

Syed Ishtiaq Urmar, Provincial Minister for Environment and Forests said KP Environment Protection (Amendment) Bill 2022 has been passed by the provincial government under which a ban on preparations and manufacturing of all types of plastic bags was imposed. Vehicles Emissions Testing Stations (VETS) have been strengthened to check smoking-emitting vehicles, he added.

KP’s first Climate Change policy 2018 has been approved with a major focus on combating air pollution through whopping plantations and mass awareness to maintain air quality, he said. To combat air pollution, he said that the first manmade Ghari Chandan forest has been raised near Peshawar where over 3.2 million saplings were planted under the billion trees afforestation project.

Quality education going beyond reach of poor parents

By Abdul Shakoor Khan

QUETTA, Dec 04 (APP): Rapid population growth and dwindling education facilities in the public sector provided ample room for the growth of private-sector educational institutions during the last three decades.

On-the-ground infrastructure of educational institutions in the country was quite sufficient to meet the needs of students during the 1980s when the country’s population was around 84.253 million (1981 census). But, it grew to around 132.352 million in 1998 and 207.68 million as per the 2017-18 census exerting extreme pressure on public sector institutions.

In the 1980s, a small number of students used to study at private schools but the coming years witnessed a mushroom growth of the private sector making it a lucrative business in wake of the increasing population, and many major chains surfaced on the horizon. However, the ongoing inflation and hefty fees charged by the private schools had landed parents in Balochistan in real trouble like millions of others across the country.

“I am the symbolic father of 4000 children, and unless you waive off the fee of all of them I will not leave my just struggle to drag the school business mafia to court,” Mohammad Aslam Rind, former Nazim and famous social worker of the Quetta city said narrating his strives. “I shall keep struggling against them until they stop hounding parents for charging hefty fees even during annual holidays.”

He claimed that authorities seemed helpless against the big and branded private school chains. “It seems like only the parents’ headache to fight back these giants minting money for their vested interest.”

Cognizant of the situation, the Supreme Court had also directed to increase annual fees only under the law stating, “education is not a product which can be put up for sale.” Although this verdict had shown some ray of hope to parents yet different loopholes in the system kept hindering on way to its implementation.

The audit report of the Auditor General of Pakistan, prepared on account of 21 private schools in 2018 and submitted to the Supreme Court also disclosed that private schools in question had increased the fee not because of inflation but to benefit the owners.

“How could you deprive students of taking annual exams, if parents could not pay a double fee,” Abdul Razaq Shaikh, a local journalist told his recent experience when his three kids studying in the missionary school were barred from sitting in exams on the pretext of non-payment of their two months fee.

Shaikh claimed that his three kids studying in the country’s big brand known for its welfare schooling system were barred from taking exams as he was late to deposit two months’ Nov-Dec fee. “There is no check on them, how could they charge two months’ fees at a time? They should be asked to abide by laws.”

The issue is getting chronic as in absence of quality education imparting institutions in the public sector, the private institutions exploit parents by charging massively. In some cases, they also either stop students from taking exams or issuing their result certificates if even there is a minor discrepancy in fee payment.

Abdul Rasheed, a WASA lineman in Quetta has also complained about high fees. “Monthly school fee of my five children is over Rs 20,000. Then there are Rs 10,000 school van charges. How can I afford it with a meager salary.”

When asked Abdul Rasheed, why he used to get his children admitted to a private school, his answer was almost the same as that of millions of other parents. “If the education standard deteriorates at the government schools then what is the other option than to approach private institutions.”

Zahoor Elahi, another government employee had the same story as he had to shift his children to the government schools to save the fees money to meet other needs like rations, clothes, medicines, and utility bills.

“How could I spend Rs 35,000 every month on the education of my four children out of my total Rs. 70,000 salary. So, I shifted my children to government schools.”

When people have to make choices between education, healthcare, food, and other essentials, they sacrifice education as living without eating and wearing could not be possible. This trend develops a clear divide between the rich and the poor and many shining students of poor families are deprived of quality education due to paucity of funds.

When asked, the private school owners give multiple reasons to justify the fee hike. “Situation after COVID had changed. Since prices of all commodities had gone up, we had to raise fees to pay salaries and meet other requirements of our institutions,” said Parveen Rehmat, Principal of St Francis Grammar School Quetta.

Even if her opinion is validly considered, still there could be room to facilitate students if they compromise on their profit ratio. But, unfortunately, people have made this missionary a lucrative business for earning money.

Commenting on this situation, Director Education Abdul Wahid Shakir said there are 15089 public sector schools in Balochistan catering to the needs of 1,004,242 students while 327,000 students are enrolled at 1230 private institutions registered under Balochistan Education Foundation (BEF).

“The BEF has formulated BPEIRRA to regulate these institutions. The BPEIRRA is formulating rules and we hope to resolve this issue in near future,” he said.

Parliamentary Secretary of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Dr. Rubaba Buledi regretted the delayed implementation of relevant laws but was confident to overcome discrepancies in the fee structure.

“The parliament has framed laws and formed the Authority. We are ensuring early implementation of these laws to provide respite to parents.”

PBM to expand scope of education for orphan children till graduation level: Amir Fida Paracha

ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 (APP): Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM) has decided to launch a pilot project to facilitate orphan children accommodated in the Sweet Homes across the country to pursue their education up to graduation level.

“Earlier, the PBM Sweet Homes (Orphanages) were catering to the educational needs of these orphan children till Matric level but now the pilot project is being launched to help them acquire education till graduation level”, Managing Director PBM, Amir Fida Paracha said in an interview with APP.

Presently, 51 Sweet Homes operating across the country were catering the needs of 4355 orphans in terms of their accommodation, education and well-being through adopting a modern welfare approach.

Amir Fida Paracha also revealed that PBM, under his supervision, has planned to set up a technical school along with each Sweet Home so that those children who could not get education or lack the tendency to get formal education can be equipped with vocational and technical skills to become able to earn for themselves and their families.

To address the issue of increasing child labour in the country, the MD PBM said that 159 Schools for Rehabilitation of Child Labours (SRCLs) across the country were working to withdraw children from their workplaces to bring them into the mainstream education through non-formal means of education.

The children passing out from SRCLs are admitted to the government schools for education up to Grade-VIII through a PBM grant of Rs. 4,100, he said.

About the Orphans and Widow Support Program (OWSP), the MD PBM said the program which is a Conditional Cash Transfer intervention was basically designed to provide financial assistance to widows with a focus on orphans, especially girls education.

The OWSP provides Rs. 8000 per month and Rs. 16,000 per month to families having one child and more than one child respectively upon meeting compliance of 75 percent school attendance. “A total of 692 families have been paid an amount of Rs. 23.598 million since December 2020”, he said.

Amir Fida Paracha conveyed that the first phase of OWSP will be launched in Karachi next week as a pilot project while it will be launched in Lahore afterward to reach out to more families”, he said.

About the expansion of Women Empowerment Centers (WECs), the MD PBM said that around 163 WECs were operating across the country to provide free vocational training to widows, orphans and poor girls in modern trades like Dress Designing, Embroidery, Basic and Advance Computer Courses, Fabric Painting etc. with a stipend of Rs. 50/ per day on attendance basis through biometric system.
However, he has conceived an idea to expand the scope of WECs, earlier established at the district level, to the Tehsil level.

Under his supervision, the MB PBM pointed out that the PBM has also started a process of certification with the help of the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission so that the women who complete the courses and qualify for the test can get a proper certificate for employment purposes.

He said that soon after assuming charge as MD PBM, he has created a special wing in the PBM to attract local and international donors.
Through such efforts, PBM is establishing a WEC in the suburb of Islamabad for which the land has been provided by one of the private donors while computers by another donor. “Now PBM will deploy its own employees in the center for the sustainability of this initiative”, he said.

Through the support of a Turkish NGO, he mentioned that a special course of Stone Cutting and Polishing is being added in the WEC of Gilgit Baltistan which would generate local earning source.

Terming the projects of Shelter Homes (Panagahs) and Meals on Wheels as people-friendly projects, Amir Fida Paracha said that the PBM was not provided with the required budget for these projects.

“Although the partner NGOs are contributing only to provide meals but PBM has to afford the cost of employee’s salaries, rent of buildings, utility bills. “This is why PBM cannot expand the existing projects or start any new initiative due to the budgetary constraints”.

The PBM asked for Rs. 12.5 billion rupees budget for execution of its projects however got only six billion rupees which could only help cater the running projects expenditures.

“PBM has requested for additional budget but didn’t receive any response yet so the department had to alter the menu of the Langar points to manage the expenses”, he said.

About the Individual Financial Assistance (IFA) initiative, the MD PBM conveyed that the IFA supports the poor, widows, destitute women, orphans and disabled persons through providing general assistance, education, medical treatment and rehabilitation.

“An amount of Rs. 9,269,125,641 has been disbursed among needy from July 2019 to December 01, 2022 under IFA”, he revealed.
Amir Fida Paracha also highlighted that the PBM under his supervision is moving toward digitalization of all the record of its projects to ensure that there is no favoritism and beneficiaries are served on first come first basis.

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Three-day capital signature Food Festival to begin on Dec 9

ISLAMABAD, Dec 04 (APP): A three-day Capital Signature Food Festival will begin at F-9 Park on December 9, having stalls of delicious homemade food, traditional meals, and tasty food items from renowned restaurants.

Talking to APP, the organizer of the event Maham Naeem said that event was scheduled to be held from 2 December to 4 December but due to the long march of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the new dates of the events have been issued.

She said the dazzling event will have around eighty food stalls among which sixty percent of stalls would have homemade delicious food items. “After tasting the home-cooked food consumers place the orders online and that is a promotion for the new businesses”, she added.

Maham Naeem said a preference has been given to those who are new to the business and offering home-cooked food. She said the event is an opportunity for young entrepreneurs and an attempt to empower women.

She said that for the promotion of young talent the organizers hosted talent hunt programs in various universities and the selected vocalists, bands, and performers will showcase their talent in the event and represent their educational institution.

She informed that RTP, Mustafa Zahid, Abdul Hanan will perform in the event while organizers are coordinating with Ali Zafar, Sahir Ali Bagga, and the Bayaan Band in the meanwhile.

She further said that the organizing team manages the stalls, electricity and sitting facility and for all these services, home-based stalls are being charged Rs50,000 and commercial food stalls would be charged Rs60,000 for the entire event.

Answering a question she said children under thirteen will have free entry, a family pass would be charged Rs1500 and individuals will have an entry for Rs700.

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Spike in gold prices impacts sale, purchase; alter investment trend

ISLAMABAD, Dec 04 (APP): The increase in gold prices owing to internationally induced inflation has not only impacted the sale and purchase of gold-made jewelry but also compelled people to opt for other modes of investments.

Gold always remained a favorite saving option for investment purposes, especially for the people belonging to the middle class which they use to transfer to the next generation as a means of the asset.

The purchase of small gold bars or ornaments with the idea to save money for the difficult time was an old practice for most people.

However, the recent spike in gold prices has changed the investment trend as the majority is considering investing in the property sector being the right choice for investment keeping in view the bright future of the industry.

Talking to APP, Jamil Ahmad, a real estate business owner said that real estate investment is a highly suitable option right now in terms of profit and reliability which also offers a substantial profit margin.

He said that easy installment plans offered by the housing schemes, day-by-day growing property market, low-risk factors and high returns are the main factors that attract investors to buy property instead of other saving or investment options like gold.

He said that whether residential or commercial, real estate has the potential to generate more profit for investors in various forms including monthly rentals in cash which gold investments cannot offer.

Muhammad Anees, a gold businessman was of the view that property is a good option for investment but gold is always considered as in-hand cash which can be utilized immediately at the time of need.
He said that although now the trend of investing in gold was decreasing however a large number of people still prefer to invest in gold for saving purposes.

Another gold trader, Muhammad Ashraf said that real estate investment is ideal for long-term investment which provides better returns than gold but at the same time real estate offers less liquidity as compared to gold.

He said women used to save money from their daily spending and purchase small chunks of gold depending upon their savings. These small ornaments can be used as jewelry and also serves the purpose of saving at the same time, he added.

Shazia Khatoon, a buyer at a gold shop said that she use to save a little amount from daily groceries, utilities and later use that money to purchase small chunks of gold for saving purposes.

She said that keeping in view the nominal returns from gold savings now; I have invested in a housing scheme with the same savings whose value is more rapidly increasing than gold.

Gaffar Ahmed, an owner of a private housing scheme told that a few years back when the option of the installment was not available, people used to buy gold for saving purposes but the attractive investment plans offered by different housing schemes have changed the investment behavior of the people.

“Owning a house is the dream of everyone and the lean investment plans offered by the housing authorities are providing opportunities to the low-income people to invest in the sector and realize the dream of their own home”, he said.
He added that nowadays, the value of the property was increasing day by day and investment in the real estate sector is a more stable option as compared to gold as it secures your future as well as gives more returns.

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One million youth to be trained under National Skills Development Initiative

ISLAMABAD, Dec 04 (APP): DigiPAKISTAN will train 1 million people in various fields of computer science to enable them to earn employment both at home and abroad under the National Skills Development Initiative.

The main objective of the program is to build a highly skilled human resource in diversified IT domains and contribute in nation building towards a knowledge-based economy.

In order to bring this vision, a comprehensive DigiPAKISTAN National Skills Development Initiative has been designed which provides contemporary online training of Information Technology in Technical, Non-Technical and High-Tech Domains across all provinces of Pakistan and overseas Pakistanis to empower youth of the nation.

Under this program, DigiPakistan will launch 16 courses in Fast Track Technical Programs, 15 courses in Fast Track Non-Technical Programs while 01 course will be on Associate Certification Programs.

Fast Track Technical Programs will include IT Fundamentals, Microsoft Front End, ASP.NET, PHP Laravel, SQL Server ,Android Apps ,iOS Apps, React Native, CCNA, CompTIA Security, CEH, CHFI, CISA, CISM, AWS Practitioner, AWS SysOps, AWS Developer, Microsoft Cloud Administrator, Google Cloud, Python, ML & AI and Data Science.

Fast Track Non-Technical Program will include courses on SAP ERP, Project Management Professional (PMP), Amazon FBA Business, Search Engineer Optimization (SEO), Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing (SMM), Graphic Design, UI / UX Design, Video Editing, AutoCAD and Microsoft Office.

Associate Certification Program will provide training on Digital Forensic Cyber Security, CISSP Cyber Security Professional, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain Technology and Full Stack Web Development (MCSA).

DigiPakistan was launched to train the youth of Pakistan in Information Technology Skills Development to support the Initiative DIGITAL PAKISTAN in capacity building, increasing the competencies of our graduates and providing them the skills that are very important to enhance the capabilities for further employment.

It also aimed to transform Pakistani Youth into productive workforce to contest the challenges of fourth industrial revolution through latest, demand driven and state of the art IT skills with increased access to high-quality education for everyone, anywhere and anytime.

PFC to take part in 3-day Jakarta single country expo from Jan 18

ISLAMABAD, Dec 04 (APP): Pakistan Furniture Council (PFC ) will take part in a 3-day single country expo in Jakarta-Indonesia
starting from January 18 to discover business opportunities and explore new markets access for Pakistani products, Chief Executive Officer PFC, Mian Kashif Ashfaq said.

He expressed these views while talking to a delegation of IT professionals led by Mian Faiz Bukhsh here on Sunday.

He said that PFC along Chenone will be participating in this mega event and conference
being held by ministry of commerce.

He said Chenone will also exhibit its high quality international standards products to
capture their share in global market.

He said it is an excellent opportunity to showcase Pak products and develop business deals with international buyers.

He said a delegation comprising exhibitors and manufacturers from Pakistan representing 20 major sectors including tourism and IT are visiting Jakarta to participate in the expo.

Mian Kashif Ashfaq said the Pakistan-ASEAN Trade Development conference(PATDC) will also be attended by dignitaries from ASEAN.
He said expo will also offer professional buyers a sourcing platform with wide variety of products ranging from basics to the most creative
and qualitative.

He said PFC and Chenone have already attended several other international fairs in US, China, Italy, Sri Lanka etc and introduced its products which are in great demand.

He hoped in getting orders from foreign buyers. He said main purpose of attending the single country expo is to help strengthen the national economy and TDAP is facilitating the manufacturers of export products.

He said he will also hold series of marathon meetings with tycoons for investment to avail government unprecedented special package for foreign investors.

Pakistan says verifying IS-KP’s claims of attack on its embassy

Pakistan says verifying IS-KP’s claims of attack on its embassy

ISLAMABAD, Dec 04 (APP): Foreign Office on Sunday said that they were verifying certain reports, independently and in consultation with the Afghan authorities, about IS-KP’s claims of attack on Pakistan embassy in Kabul.

“We have seen reports that IS-KP (Islamic State- Khorasan Province) has accepted responsibility for the terrorist attack on the Pakistan Embassy compound on 2 December,” the Foreign Office Spokesperson said in a press release.

This notwithstanding, the terrorist attack was yet another reminder of the threat that terrorism posed to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. 

“We must act resolutely with all our collective might to defeat this menace. On its part, Pakistan remains steadfast in its commitment to combat terrorism,” it was further reiterated.

Global food prices overall hold steady in November: UN agency

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 03 (APP): World food commodity prices remained largely steady in November, with declining international prices of cereals, meat and dairy products offsetting increasing quotations for vegetable oils and sugar, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), a Rome-based UN agency.

The FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of a basket of commonly-traded food commodities, averaged 135.7 points during the month of November, a fraction below its level in October. The Index is now only 0.3 percent higher than its level in November 2021.

The FAO Cereal Price Index declined by 1.3 percent from the previous month, but it was still up 6.3 percent from its value a year ago, FAO said. World wheat and maize prices declined in November by 2.8 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively, partly influenced by the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. By contrast, international rice prices moved up by 2.3 percent.

The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index increased by 2.3 percent in November, ending seven consecutive months of decline. International palm and soy oil prices rose, while those of rapeseed and sunflower oils dropped.

The FAO Dairy Price Index decreased by 1.2 percent since October, with world quotations for butter, skim and whole milk powders falling, amid lower import demand, while those for cheese increased, in part due to less buoyant export availabilities from leading producing countries in Western Europe.

The FAO Meat Price Index was 0.9 percent lower in November than the previous month, as international bovine meat prices fell, as increased export supplies from Australia added to already-high supplies from Brazil, notwithstanding China’s continuing strong import demand. By contrast, world prices of all other meat types rebounded, led by higher quotations for ovine meat.

The FAO Sugar Price Index rose 5.2 percent in November, influenced by strong buying amid tight global sugar supplies due to harvest delays in key producing countries and the announcement by India of a lower sugar export quota. Higher ethanol prices in Brazil also exerted upward pressure on world sugar prices.

In the latest Cereal Supply and Demand Brief, also released today, FAO said it further cut its forecast for world cereal production in 2022, which now stands at 2 756 million tonnes, a 2.0 percent drop from 2021.

The reduction largely reflects low maize production prospects in Ukraine, where the impact of the war has made post-harvesting operations prohibitively expensive. FAO also lowered its global wheat production forecast for the year, but despite this cut, the new 781.2 million tonne figure would remain a record high. Global rice production is expected to fall by 2.4 percent below the previous year’s all-time high.

Looking ahead, planting of the 2023 winter wheat crop is underway amid concerns over the affordability of key agricultural inputs and adverse weather conditions in the United States and Russia, although elevated crop prices could help to maintain an above-average area globally. In the southern hemisphere, coarse grain crops are being sown, and official forecasts in Brazil point to a record high area being sown to maize.

Further details and updated forecasts for worldwide utilization of cereals in the 2022/23 season, for world cereal stocks by the close of seasons in 2023 and for world trade in cereals are available here.

Fortyfive countries around the world, including 33 in Africa, nine in Asia, two in Latin America and the Caribbean and one in Europe, are assessed to be in need of external assistance for food due to conflicts, extreme weather events and soaring inflation rates, according to the latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, a quarterly publication by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

Food insecurity conditions in countries in East Africa and West Africa are of particular concern.

For low-income food-deficit countries, the agency said the 2022 cereal output is forecast at 184.5 million tonnes, on par with the past five-year average, while the total cereal import requirement is forecast at 63.7 million tonnes, up 7 percent from the last five-year average.

Art exhibitions pivotal to promote local artists, art: Samina

KARACHI, Dec 3 (APP): First Lady Samina Alvi on Saturday said that the art and craft exhibitions were pivotal in promoting local arts and artists and that the value of art in society could not be ignored as it formed the soul of the cultural identity.

She was addressing the participants of the 17th Daachi Arts and Craft Exhibition organized by Daachi, a non-profit organization that strived to bring the artistic community together. The foundation has empowered local artisans for the past 12 years through its exhibitions and craft development.

The first lady, who inaugurated the exhibition, also interacted with the participants, congratulated the organizers and appreciated the artworks of the artists.

She also visited various stalls of the artisans and appreciated their work.

Being held at Expo Centre Karachi, the two-day Daachi exhibition has participation from scores of craftspersons and entrepreneurs from all over the country.

AJK President calls for steps to expose India’s disinformation campaign against Kashmir

MIRPUR [AJK]: Dec 03 (APP): Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry has said that India was blatantly involved in a malicious propaganda campaign by peddling lies to deceive the international community on Kashmir.

Talking to the media in Khoi Ratta town of Mirpur division on Saturday, the AJK president said that there was a dire need to counter India’s disinformation campaign aimed at creating “cobwebs” of confusion around Kashmir.

“In order to conceal the crimes and reign of state terrorism of its occupational forces in occupied Jammu Kashmir , the Indian government was forcing the IIOJK-based United Nations Military Observer Group to leave the country so that the world does not get to know the real situation in and around Kashmir especially on the Line of Control,” Barrister Sultan said.

Earlier speaking at a reception hosted in his honor in Kotli Saturday, he said that soon after the Modi government stripped Kashmir of it’s special status in 2019, a comprehensive campaign aimed at exposing India’s nefarious game plan was launched by him under which protest demonstrations were held in different European capitals.

The AJK president said that he visited the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries to expose India’s malafide intentions behind the move.

“During my visits, I gave a detailed briefing to the international community on the Kashmir issue and the ongoing human rights abuses in Occupied Kashmir,” he said, adding that he had a series of important meetings with top officials of the OIC, the UN and the US state department and sought their urgent attention towards the fast deteriorating situation in the Indian occupied Kashmir.

“Similarly, I organized a big rally in Washington on the occasion of Black Day on 27 October to seek world attention towards the Kashmir issue”, the president said.

On this occasion, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry while referring to his recent visit to USA, UK and other European countries said that during these visits he had been able to present and plead the case of Kashmir effectively and sensitizing global community about the early solution of Kashmir dispute.

Expressing solidarity with the people of the occupied Kashmir, the AJK president said the day was not far when the occupied Kashmir would be freed from India’s illegal occupation.

He said that since 5th August 2019, Modi government had introduced a series of new laws to pave the way for changing the region’s demography. He said that redrawing of the electoral map and reorganization of constituencies by the government was meant to install a “Hindu Chief Minister in the state”.

“I salute the people of Occupied Kashmir for their great struggle,” he said, adding that Kashmiris’ struggle for right to self-determination would continue at all fronts until Kashmir was freed from India’s illegal occupation.

Transgenders to be get assistance under Benazir Kafalat Programme

ISLAMABAD, Dec 03 (APP): The government of Pakistan has decided to include transgenders in the Benazir Kafalat programme for the first time.

This decision was made by the Board of Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) under the leadership of the Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety and Chairperson Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) Shazia Marri.

“Transgenders are also a part of the society like us and it is the duty of the government to take care of them,” Shazia Marri said in a video message on Saturday.

She said that transgenders had to first update their gender in the CNIC from NADRA in order to be eligible for this program.

The transgenders after updating their CNIC from NADRA can register themselves in BISP Tehsil Offices, she said.
On successful registration, the applicant transgender will get a payment message from 8171 number and will get Rs. 7000 per quarter, she added.

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