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PTCL hosts Federal Minister & Secretary MoITT for tree plantation drive

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Syed Amin Ul Haque, Federal Minister for Information Technology & Telecommunication (MoITT), along with Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, Federal Secretary for Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunication visited PTCL HQ in Islamabad where they participated in a tree plantation activity to endorse Prime Minister Imran Khan’s 10 Billion tree plantation tsunami drive.

Along with that, they also had a presentation and meeting on PTCL progress and development with Rashid Khan, President & CEO, PTCL and top management. All participants followed the safety guidelines and kept social distancing throughout the activity.

On this occasion, Syed Amin Ul Haque, Federal Minister for Information Technology & Telecommunication said, “We are glad to see PTCL playing a key role in providing connectivity across the country and is paving the way towards a Digital Pakistan. Being a national company, PTCL is also contributing to environmental preservation that is line with the Prime Minister’s vision of a clean and green Pakistan.”

Talking at the ceremony, Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, Secretary IT & Telecom and Chairman Board of Director, PTCL, said, “It is an honor to be here at PTCL to create awareness regarding low forest cover and pollution in the country. He further said, I am proud that the national carrier is taking a special interest in Prime Minister’s vision for a Digital Pakistan to ensure country’s economic growth and support the tree plantation tsunami movement for a green Pakistan.”

Speaking at the event, Rashid Khan, President & CEO, PTCL, said, “We are honored to have the Federal Minister and Secretary visit PTCL HQ and take part in our plantation drive. PTCL is a great supporter of Prime Minister’s 10 Billion tree plantation tsunami movement that will help in mitigating the effects of global warming and increase forest cover throughout Pakistan.”

PTCL has always participated actively in climate and environment related initiatives and its HQ is amongst the few Green Offices certified by WWF in Pakistan.

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SBP to facilitating overseas Pakistanis, says Governor

F.P. Report

KARACHI: The Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Dr. Reza Baqir, said that the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is fully committed to facilitating overseas Pakistanis to remain financially connected with their homeland. He was speaking to Overseas Pakistanis in a webinar organized by the Pakistan Embassy in Washington D.C.

Welcoming the Governor, the Ambassador of Pakistan to the US, Dr. Asad M. Khan, highlighted that the Government attaches highest importance to serving the Pakistani American diaspora, who play a crucial role in Pakistan’s national development. In this regard, he mentioned that the Government had taken a number of steps to facilitate Pakistanis living abroad. He noted the significant role played by Pakistani American community, which is the third largest contributor of remittances to Pakistan. The Ambassador further added that the Embassy and its Consulates General across US remain in close contact with the Pakistani American community to regularly brief them on developments back home and to explore avenues for cooperation. In this context, the Ambassador mentioned that today’s webinar offered a unique opportunity for the Pakistani diaspora to directly interact with Governor State Bank and his team and to share their views and feedback. He thanked Governor for taking this initiative and sparing time to engage with the diaspora and educate them about the Government’s efforts to make banking transactions easier for its citizens and community living abroad.

While briefing the audience about the state of the economy, the Governor remarked that the decisive measures taken by the State Bank and the government before the COVID-19 pandemic had helped address the balance of payments crisis that the new government had inherited. In turn, these bold steps had placed the economy on a stronger footing, helping to provide room for policy action to combat the pandemic. He discussed the various measures taken by SBP and the Government during the pandemic to safeguard common people and businesses. He expressed confidence about the recent resumption of economic activity as COVID-19 cases have receded significantly thanks to steadfast actions by the government and lockdowns have been eased in the country. Looking ahead, he was confident that the economy would resume along the path of stability and recovery on which it had made strong progress before the pandemic.

Elaborating the efforts of SBP for facilitating overseas Pakistanis, Dr. Baqir said that SBP is focusing on facilitating them by providing a secure and efficient financial system through digital means. He outlined SBP’s commitment to a digital financial ecosystem, that would feature efficient and secure payment and banking systems in the country. Elaborating further, he said that SBP and the Government are actively working for further facilitation of overseas Pakistanis by increasing their access to financial markets of Pakistan. In particular, SBP is working for facilitation of home remittances, increasing investment in Pakistani capital markets, industry, real estate and fulfilling the life style needs of non-resident Pakistanis. In this context, he was excited about the recent launching of the Roshan Digital Account by the PM.

The Deputy Governor (Policy) of the State Bank, Dr. Murtaza Syed, gave a detailed presentation on the Roshan Digital Accounts to the participants. He informed that for the first time in Pakistan’s banking history, Non-resident Pakistanis (NRPs) have been provided an opportunity to remotely open bank accounts in Pakistan entirely through digital means without visiting a bank in Pakistan or an Embassy or a Consulate office. The facility has been initially launched through 8 Pakistani banks. SBP would continue to add other banks in the list in future.

The Deputy Governor highlighted that Roshan Digital Accounts can be opened in Pak rupee and a number of foreign currencies, which offer complete life style banking solution to account holders through digital channels. The Roshan Digital Accounts can be used for investment in Government of Pakistan Securities, including the recently launched Naya Pakistan Certificates offering attractive returns in dollars and Pak rupees and also available in Shariah-compliant form. In addition, the accounts enable investment in the Pakistan Stock Exchange, deposit products of banks and, in future, in real estate.

Dr. Murtaza Syed further informed that Roshan Digital Accounts could be used for payments and withdrawal in Pakistan or abroad. The funds available in these accounts including disinvestment proceeds will be repatriable, without any regulatory or bank approval. He urged the participants to spread the word among their friends and families abroad, to visit the official website of the initiative: http://www.sbp.org.pk/RDA/index.html, and to email SBP with any feedback or issues they had at RDASupport@sbp.org.pk. Dr. Syed emphasized that the accounts were the beginning of a relationship and connection of the country’s financial system with overseas Pakistanis, and that SBP was committed to making this channel work efficiently and mature further in the months and years ahead.

The webinar was attended by prominent Pakistani American community members and representatives of leading community organizations and business hailing from Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles as well as various other US states.

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EFU Life, 1LINK sign an agreement

F.P. Report

KARACHI: EFU Life, leading life insurance company has partnered with 1LINK, Pakistan’s first fully licensed PSO/PSP to provide unparalleled value addition for PayPak cardholders through life insurance coverage for conventional account holders.

PayPak, Pakistan’s first domestic payment scheme has introduced a comprehensive loyalty program whereby all new and existing cardholders can benefit from a life coverage of PKR 100,000 in case of death (all causes). Additionally, under this program, PayPak cardholders can avail deals and discounts at 12,500+ merchants nationwide.

The signing ceremony was held at EFU Life’s head office in Karachi, Pakistan. The Agreement was signed by Mr. Taher G. Sachak – MD & CEO EFU Life and Mr. Najeeb Agrawalla – CEO 1LINK.

Mr. Taher G. Sachak stated in the event that, “EFU Life has been a catalyst for mitigating life and health risks for almost 3 decades by introducing innovative financial planning products which are designed around the needs of the various market segments. We have always remained committed to our promises and believe in continuous innovation towards the ever-changing digital landscape and customer’s needs. We congratulate 1LINK on the launch of their loyalty program and aim to add our share in the form of the insurance protection feature.”

Mr. Najeeb Agrawalla also added, “PayPak has achieved tremendous growth in a short span of time and with this partnership, we aim to further enhance the PayPak card proposition, by bringing added value for PayPak cardholders, and make PayPak the card of choice. Through PayPak Loyalty Program, we are confident that customers will reap more benefits compared to any other card scheme in Pakistan”.

This strategic partnership between the two companies will be an inclusive solution pack for Bank’s/Issuers customers by combining the expertise of both organizations into one and will open the doors to new innovations and more tailor-made solutions for next era.

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FBR seizes non-duty paid cigarettes

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: As a part of the ongoing crackdown against illicit cigarette trade in light of the directions of the Director General Dr. Bashirullah Khan, the Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation-IR, Lahore raided/searched different premises situated at District Sheikhupura.

During the raid/search, three hundred cartons of non-duty paid locally manufactured cigarettes of different brands namely Kisan, Classic, OK, Hitler etc. manufactured/produced by the different manufacturers were found and accordingly seized under the relevant provision of Federal Excise Act, 2005.

The Directorate of the I & I-IR Lahore has intensified operation against businesses dealing in non-duty paid locally manufactured and counterfeit cigarettes as well as un-registered persons making taxable supplies operating without being registered under the Sales Tax Act, 1990 and Federal Excise Act, 2005 thus causing huge revenue loss to the national exchequer.

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Virgin Atlantic flights from Pakistan on sale now

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Virgin Atlantic is delighted to announce that flights from Pakistan to London Heathrow and Manchester are on sale now with return Economy fares starting from PKR 103,600/-per person, Premium from PKR 154,500/-and Upper Class from PKR 353,100/-.

Flying three new routes from Lahore to London Heathrow, Islamabad to London Heathrow, as well as from Islamabad to Manchester, subject to applicable regulatory approvals; these new services will operate on one of Virgin Atlantic’s newest, most fuel efficient aircraft, the 787-9 boasting31 Upper Class suites,35 Premium and 192 Economy seats.

These new services will open up over 290,000 seats between Pakistan and the UK annually whilst also offering seamless, speedy connections and a consistent long-haul onboard experience for customers travelling from Pakistan to onwards destinations throughout North America, including New York JFK, Los Angeles, Washington, Boston and San Francisco via London Heathrow. Connections to European destinations will also be available through code share and interline partners.

Alex McEwan, Commercial Manager – Pakistan, Virgin Atlantic commented, ‘’ We are excited to open bookings for our first ever flights to Pakistan. This is a great opportunity to offer travellers from Pakistan even more choice when they travel to UK and connect to USA, experiencing our award winning service on one of our newest aircraft -787 Dream liner. Pakistan is one of the largest foreign-born populations within the UK and our flights will offer the opportunity to visit and reunite with friends and relatives. Alongside our Lahore and Islamabad services to London, the Manchester to Islamabad service is very exciting as it is our first route in Asia from Manchester.’’

Virgin Atlantic will also offer a fast, efficient cargo service presenting new opportunities for companies looking to export and import goods such as fresh produce and textiles between prime markets in the UK and US, and Pakistan.

Flights from Pakistan are on sale now. For further information or to book visit www.virginatlantic.com.

Islamabad to Manchester

Frequency: Four times a week (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat) starting on 11th Dec 2020

Timings: ISB – MAN – VS363 – 03:30 / 07:00

MAN – ISB – VS362 -12:35 / 01:00

Fare: Return Economy fares start from PKR 103,600/-per person, Premium from PKR 154,500/-, and Upper Class from PKR 353,100/-

Lahore to London Heathrow

Frequency: Four times a week (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat) starting on 14th December 2020

Timings: LHE – LHR – VS365 – 13:25 / 17:00

LHR – LHE – VS364 – 21:50 / 10:20

Fare: Return Economy fares start from PKR 115,100/-per person, Premium from PKR 184,100/- and Upper Class from PKR 364,600/-

Islamabad to London Heathrow

Frequency: Three times a week (Tue, Thu, Sun) starting on 13th December 2020

Timings: ISB – LHR – VS379 – 03:30 / 07:00

LHR – ISB – VS378 – 12:30 / 01:00

Fare: Return Economy fares start from PKR 115,400/- per person, Premium from PKR 184,800and Upper Class from PKR 364,900/-.

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PPL: A rich legacy rejuvenated

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), a frontline Exploration and Production (E&P) company for seven decades, has played a key role in providing energy for the country with a current contribution of more than 20 percent to national gas supplies.

“The company’s over a 100-year rich history is linked with its predecessor and major stakeholder, Burmah Oil Company, a British company, once based in the United Kingdom founded back in the 19th century. PPL, now a public sector company since 1997, has a multinational legacy and DNA, governed under the Companies Act, 2017,” says Moin Raza Khan, MD & CEO, PPL.

The discovery at Sui in 1952 was a landmark for both the company and country, being the largest gas field with more than 12 trillion cubic feet of reserves. This discovery was made in the heart of the country in Balochistan yet in close proximity to Sindh and Punjab and became the hub for natural gas distribution system in Pakistan with original infrastructure emanating from it. At one point, Sui was the only producing field and at its peak produced around 1 Bcf per day of high-quality gas. Subsequently, gas was supplied to Karachi in 1955 followed by Rawalpindi and the rest of the country.

Following the Sui discovery, impetus was provided to industry for exploration activities in south region, as earlier only Potwar region in north was the focus of E&P activities.

PPL made a string of significant discoveries after Sui at Zin, Uch, Khairpur and also in currently operated assets at Kandhkot and Mazarani in 1959 followed by an oil and gas discovery at Adhi in 1978, which are still producing through dedicated facilities. PPL also confirmed the presence of gas in Qadirpur structure, a 6 trillion cubic feet field, through its well Kandhkot-9 in early 1986.

Later the government engaged International Finance Corporation and a Gas Price Agreement came into effect for installation of a compressor plant at Sui along with development wells at Sui, Kandhkot and Adhi. In 1997, BOC disinvested from the E&P sector worldwide and sold its equity in PPL to the Government of Pakistan.

It was only in 2009, when PPL’s momentum for recent successful endeavours commenced by a team led by Khan, then General Manager Exploration, when PPL increased its portfolio by acquiring 14 blocks and another 11 in the 2013-bidding round, adding around 48,000 sq. km acreage.

“PPL has drilled 63 exploratory wells since 2012, resulting in 22 discoveries in operated areas with a success ratio of 35 percent adding about 2.764 Tcf gas and 127 Mbbls oil in place,” says Khan. Among these, 11 discoveries were made in Gambat South Block acquired in 2009 which currently produces over 100 Bcf gas, 1100 bbl oil and 15 M tonnes LPG per day through three producing fields.

“As the known corridors have already been discovered in Pakistan and are matured, it has become vital to explore frontier regions as well as expensive off-shore for growth. However, the liquidity crunch due to circular debt is a real challenge facing the industry and particularly, PPL,” highlights Khan.

PPL boasts highly qualified, motivated and committed staff who remained determined during the current COVID-19 pandemic for the company to achieve a milestone with nearly zero decline in its production to provide much-needed energy supplies for the nation.

“The current PPL management is committed to fully embracing a multinational style of working. The positive response by company staff during COVID-19 pandemic is a testament that the company is stepping-up to the path of growth,” says Khan.

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PSX gains 52 points to close at 42,334

ISLAMABAD (APP): The Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) on Thursday witnessed bullish trend as the as KSE 100 index closed at 42,334.76 points as compared to 42,282.28 points on the last working day, with positive change of 52.48 points (0.12%).

A total 598,691,857 shares were traded compared to the trade 489,600,39 shares during the previous day, whereas the value of shares traded during the day stood at Rs15.085 billion as compared to Rs14.621 billion during last trading day.

As many as 414 companies transacted shares in the Stock Market, out of which 200 recorded gain and 197 sustained losses whereas the share price of 17 companies remained unchanged.

The three top traded companies were PTCL with a volume of 78,666,000 shares and price per share of Rs10.76, Unity Foods LTD with a volume of 45,248,500 and price per share of Rs16.31 and Hascol Petrol with a volume of 35,002, 500 and price per share of Rs22.40.

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Highly anticipated Sony PlayStation 5 gets November launch date

Monitoring Desk

Sony Corp said its next-generation PlayStation 5 console will launch in November priced at $499.99 and $399.99 for a version without a disk drive, as it squares off against rival Microsoft Corp’s Xbox console.

The pricing announcement sets the stage for a year-end showdown between Xbox and PlayStation, as consumers continue to flock to gaming optimised consoles offering exclusive titles.

Microsoft said last week Xbox Series X would go on sale on November 10 priced at $499.99 with the less powerful Xbox Series S priced at $299.99, as Xbox bets that offering consumers choice will outweigh the risks run by launching two distinct devices at once.

The PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X have the same price, but the $399.99 PlayStation 5 Digital Edition “offers a substantial discount at no cost in terms of performance or hardware, besides the disc reader,” said Guilherme Fernandes, analyst at gaming analysis firm Newzoo.

Hardware pricing decisions have won and lost generational console battles as makers look to build the critical mass of consumers that will attract games developers to their platform.

Sony, which is making a stylistic departure from recent generations with the predominantly white PlayStation 5, is offering the version without a disk drive as digital downloads become standard.

Upcoming titles unveiled for the console include platform exclusives “Final Fantasy XVI” from Square Enix, a new “God of War” title from Sony’s Santa Monica Studio and a “Harry Potter” role-playing game.

The announcement bolsters PlayStation’s lineup following the reveal of a slew of titles including Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales from in-house studio Insomniac Games in June. That title will also be available on the PlayStation 4, Sony said.

Sony’s “fantastic” games line-up shows it is “more aggressively betting on exclusives” with “Microsoft focused on cheaper entry prices to get users into the Xbox ecosystem,” said Serkan Toto, founder of game industry consultancy Kantan Games.

With both companies seeking to drive recurring revenues, Sony said PlayStation Plus subscribers will have access to a back catalogue of titles from the aging PlayStation 4.

Gaming industry revenues have been on a tear among consumers staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, helping drive up Sony’s shares 46 percent since its March lows.

Heading into the year-end shopping season “you are balancing a weak economy with a higher need for people to entertain themselves at home,” said Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Creative Strategies.

The PlayStation 5 will go on sale on November 12 in the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea and on November 19 in the rest of the world.

Courtesy: (TRTWorld)

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Beijing lauds success of its vocational jobs in Xinjiang as criticism mounts

Monitoring Desk

BEIJING: China lauded the success of its vocational and jobs schemes in the troubled Xinjiang region on Thursday, just days after the US government said they were being operated from facilities run like “concentration camps.”

Beijing has come under intense international criticism over its policies in the resource-rich region, where rights groups say as many as one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are being held in internment camps.

US customs said Monday it would bar a raft of Chinese products from Xinjiang over fears of forced labor, saying “religious and ethnic minorities are… forced to work in heinous conditions with no recourse and no freedom.”

Homeland Security Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told reporters: “This is not a vocational center, it is a concentration camp.”

But Beijing says the centers are for vocational training, necessary for counter terrorism efforts and to provide education for alleviating poverty.

On Thursday the government published a white paper staunchly defending its policy in the region, where it says training programs, work schemes and better education mean life has improved.

The report says Xinjiang has “vigorously implemented employment projects, enhanced vocational training, and expanded employment channels and capacity.”

It says vocational training for millions has improved the quality of the workforce.

“Xinjiang has built a large knowledge-based, skilled and innovative workforce that meets the requirements of the new era,” the report reads.

Training includes teaching written and spoken Mandarin, labor skills and giving knowledge of urban life, according to the report, which says rural people have started businesses or taken employment in factories after state support.

Every year between 2014 and 2019, Xinjiang gave “training sessions” to an average of 1.29 million urban and rural workers, it says, adding that employment policies “meet the people’s needs (and) improve their wellbeing.”

However, the white paper warns there is a low level of vocational skills and says “terrorists, separatists and religious extremists” have encouraged the public not to learn Chinese, to “reject modern science, and refuse to improve their vocational skills.”

Swedish clothing giant H&M said this week it was ending its relationship with a Chinese yarn producer over accusations of “forced labor” in Xinjiang, which is China’s largest cotton growing area.

Beijing has denied claims of forced labor and in Tuesday’s report said it would take “resolute action” against it.

The EU meanwhile has urged China to allow independent observers to travel to the highly surveilled region.

China this week said experts were “welcome” but did not detail if they would be allowed free access to the controversial faciltiies.

State media frequently shows apparently happy vocational students studying or working in the large facilities.

But rights groups have warned of forced detentions and political indoctrination as part of a campaign by the Chinese Communist Party to erase the ethnic group’s identity and culture.

In a white paper on Xinjiang in March, China defended its controversial security crackdown and said nearly 13,000 “terrorists” have been arrested there since 2014.

Courtesy: (AFP)

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Saudi Arabia looks to end gender-based discrimination in employees’ wages

Monitoring Desk

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development recently issued an order to ensure there is no gender-based discrimination in employees’ wages.

It is the latest move to create an encouraging and safe work environment, provide decent and sustainable job opportunities for all citizens and address the challenges facing workers and employers.

The ministry said that “the employer is prohibited from distinguishing between their workers, whether during the performance of work or when hiring or advertising it, such as sex, disability, age, or any other form of discrimination.”

At the Misk Global Forum 2019, the Saudi energy minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is providing all Saudis with equal opportunities.

“We know that our women now are enabled, they have an education program,” he said. “We have equal pay for both men and women.”

The move was widely welcomed by Saudis. Electrical engineer Mohammed Al-Ali told Arab News that it would encourage more women to join the workforce.

“This decision is a step forwards towards equality for women. It encourages more women to be part of the workforce and will turn our economy into a prosperous one,” said Al-Ali.

“Saudi Arabia, as part of its 2030 vision, is going through rapid changes towards a more inclusive society, where women and men work side by side with no discrimination.”

Saudi admin assistant Rozan Al-Nahari said that women work just as hard as men, and this move would bring financial relief to many. “We spend the same working hours at the office, complete the same tasks and many of us try to prove ourselves in any establishment,” she said.

“I’m very happy that all of the social reforms are so supportive of women.”

Courtesy: (Arabnews)