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Pakistani international plane crashes with 48 on board, pop singer among

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A Pakistan International Airlines plane PK 661 with 48 people on board, including a famous former pop singer Junaid Jamshed, crashed near Abbottabad, the place where one Osama was allegedly killed by Obama, in northern Pakistan on 07 December, government officials and the airline said. The flight, PK 661, was traveling to Islamabad, the capital, from Chitral, a northern hilly tourist destination near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, when it crashed, said Saeed Wazir, the deputy inspector general of police in Abbottabad district.

Pakistan International Airlines, the national carrier, released a statement saying that 42 passengers, five crew members and one ground engineer were on the aircraft, an ATR-42 twin turboprop plane. The statement said the plane went down near the city of Havelian, in Abbottabad district.

The aircraft was an ATR-42 twin-engine propeller plane. The aircraft’s manufacturer, ATR, is a joint venture between Airbus Group and Italy’s Leonardo. There were three cockpit crew members aboard the flight: a captain, a first officer and a trainee pilot. It is not clear if the trainee pilot was flying at the time, according to a PIA official who did not want to be named. The airline’s chairman said the captain had 12,000 hours of flying experience and was also a flight trainer for the ATR-42 plane.

The flight departed from Chitral around 15:30 local time (10:30 GMT) and was expected to land in Islamabad around 16:40. Rescue workers and people from nearby villages had to walk for an hour to reach the crash site. Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said the pilot had sent a distress signal before the plane crashed. Local television news networks broadcast images of the smoldering debris of the aircraft, sprawled over a large hilly area, as dozens of people ran toward the wreckage.

At least 40 bodies were taken from the crash site on Wednesday night and brought to a hospital in Abbottabad. Recovery efforts continued, aided by hundreds of soldiers, but officials held out little hope that anyone would be found alive. “What locals from the crash scene are telling us, the passengers are all burned,” Wazir said. “Smoke and fire are billowing from the debris. No one can go near it. People are helpless.” In a telephone interview, the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority, Asim Suleiman, said that in the minutes before the crash, the plane’s pilot radioed to air traffic controllers that the left engine had flamed out. “Two minutes later, he lost contact,” Suleiman said.

The passengers included Junaid Jamshed, a popular recording artist who later turned to Islamic proselytizing. Jamshed was a heartthrob in his youth, performing lead vocals in the band Vital Signs, known for its brooding, romantic, catchy ballads. Jamshed rocketed to fame in Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s as the singer for the Vital Signs pop band, , one of the most iconic pop bands in Pakistan.. He launched a solo career later with a string of chart-topping albums and hits. He gave up music in 2001 and announced that he was devoting his life to spreading Islam. The band’s first pop music album, released in 1989, took the country by storm: The song “Dil Dil Pakistan” has become a sort of unofficial national anthem. Jamshed gave up pop stardom to focus on religious music, or Nasheeds, and became a televangelist. His last tweet, posted Sunday, showed pictures of “Heaven on Earth” in Chitral, the northern Pakistan city where the plane took off. Although he had stopped singing, he began reciting na’at, a type of poetry that praises the Prophet Muhammad (SAS), and started a successful retail clothing business. One of Jamshed’s two wives was with him on the flight. Jamshed’s family members said he had gone to Chitral a week ago on a proselytizing mission and had extended his stay by two days. A senior government official in Peshawar said three foreigners — one Australian, one Chinese and one Korean — were among the passengers.

Searchers have recovered the black box from the plane, Pakistan’s military said. But the cause of the crash remains unclear. Saigol said international agencies will help investigate the cause of the crash.

All 48 people on board a Pakistani passenger plane, which crashed in the country’s mountainous north, have died, the airline’s chairman has confirmed. “There are no survivors, no one has survived,” Muhammad Azam Saigol told a press conference, about five hours after the plane crashed near the town of Havelian, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Some relatives of those onboard have gathered at Islamabad airport but were getting very little information or assistance from authorities. Pakistan’s Dawn News reported that 40 ambulances were dispatched from Islamabad and a helicopter will be used to put out the fire. It added that owing to darkness and the remoteness of the crash site, rescue efforts were proving to be very difficult.

Hospital officials said that the bodies were badly burned and it was very difficult to identify them. It was too early to ascertain the cause of the crash. Saigol said the ATR-42 aircraft had undergone regular maintenance and had in October passed an “A-check” certification, conducted after every 500 hours of flight operations. “I think that there was no technical error or human error … obviously there will be a proper investigation,” he said.

“I was working in my shop when I heard the explosion. But it wasn’t until 15 minutes later that we heard a plane had crashed,” one Abbas said. “There was a lot of smoke when I got to the location and the wreckage of the plane was on fire. The first body we pulled out was badly burned. It was after that the rescue officials and the army got there. The area is very remote and it was getting quite dark, making rescue efforts very difficult.”

Pakistan’s last major air disaster was in 2015 when a Pakistani military helicopter crashed in a remote northern valley, killing eight people including the Norwegian, Philippine and Indonesian envoys and the wives of Malaysian and Indonesian envoys.

The ATR-42 that crashed was made in 2007 and had been flown for 18,740 hours, Saigol said. “The ATR plane was a sound plane,” the chairman said. “We have 11 other ATRs. Every 500 hours, these planes are checked, and this plane had been last checked in October.” The deadliest crash was in 2010, when an Airbus 321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into hills outside Islamabad while about to land, killing all 152 on board.

The crash is again focusing attention on Pakistan’s troubled air travel industry. For years, Pakistan International Airlines has been buffeted by controversies over mismanagement, corruption and safety. The two most recent major air crashes, however, involved private or local airlines. In 2012, a flight by Bhoja Air, a private carrier, crashed outside Islamabad, killing 127 people.

Pakistan, with about 190 million people, has thriving domestic air operations. But it has a checkered air safety history and suffered three fatal commercial air crashes in 2010 that claimed 185 lives, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

Wednesday’s crash is the first major airliner accident in Pakistan since 2012 when a Bhoja Air Boeing 737-200 crashed in bad weather while on approach to Islamabad. The ATR-42 that crashed was made in 2007 and had been flown for 18,740 hours, Saigol said. “The ATR plane was a sound plane,” the chairman said. “We have 11 other ATRs. Every 500 hours, these planes are checked, and this plane had been last checked in October.” The deadliest crash was in 2010, when an Airbus 321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into hills outside Islamabad while about to land, killing all 152 on board.

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Africa Today

Central African Republic: Diversifying the economy to build resilience and foster growth

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According to the latest economic update for the Central African Republic (CAR), which was published today by the World Bank, the country’s pace of economic growth for 2020 will have slumped to between 0 and −1.2% as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic following five years of robust growth (4.1%, on average). In 2019, although the country’s growth rate slipped to 3.1%, it was still higher than the rates recorded by neighboring countries that are facing a similar situation of fragility, conflict, and violence.  

Entitled The Central African Republic in Times of COVID-19: Diversifying the economy to build resilience and foster growth,theupdate notesthat the global slowdown has not spared CAR, where production of its main export products, such as coffee and cotton, has plummeted. The health crisis has weakened public finances and deepened the country’s balance of payments deficit.

The authors observe that the pandemic’s effects may wipe out years of progress in the area of human development and could drive as many as another 140,000 people into extreme poverty, which was already the plight of 71% of the population in 2019. The growth rate should start climbing again once the pandemic is brought under control, however, rising to an average of 3.9% in 2021-2023, although this is still lower than the projected rates for those years before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Even though the security situation has improved since the peace agreement was signed in February 2019, pre-existing structural problems in the Central African economy have exacerbated the impact of the pandemic,” explained Wilfried A. Kouamé, World Bank Economist and lead author of the report. The economy’s lack of diversification makes it vulnerable to shocks and limits its participation in global value chains, while its heavy dependence on international assistance reduces its budgetary maneuvering room.”

A number of recommendations are made in the report for spurring the economic recovery and boosting the country’s potential growth rate:

Diversify the economy by capitalizing on existing export opportunities. The country’s major export products, such as timber and cotton, offer opportunities for specializing in a wide range of related products, creating new jobs, and generating additional revenue. CAR could also begin to export a variety of new products in which it has a comparative advantage.

Address the major cross-cutting problems affecting the country by putting an end to the violence, strengthening its institutions, ensuring respect for the law, and investing in sustainable development. These steps would expedite the reconciliation process and promote private enterprise and investment. The transport sector also needs to be developed in order to further cross-border trade and open up access to electricity in a country where just 8% of the population currently has access to a source of electrical power.

Reinforce subregional trade. Asia and Europe are among CAR’s top export markets despite their highly competitive nature and the significant constraints associated with the resulting transport costs. Meanwhile, neighboring countries have the potential to be important markets for the country, since they are currently net importers of products that CAR exports elsewhere. This subregional market represents some $31 billion in imports per year and has a population of over 175 million.

CAR has an important choice to make,” said Han Fraeters, the World Bank’s Country Manager for CAR. It can build a strong, diversified, and resilient economy but only if all stakeholders in the country are committed to holding peaceful general and local elections and to implementing the peace accord. Without peace and the prospect of long-term stability, CAR will be unable to realize its strong economic potential.”

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Human Rights

World must not accept slavery in 21st century

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Commemorating the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, the United Nations Secretary-General highlighted the impact of the contemporary forms of slavery, underscoring that such abhorrent practices have no space in the twenty-first century. 

In a message, Secretary-General António Guterres said that global protests this year against systemic racism brought renewed attention to a “legacy of injustices all over the world whose roots lie in the dark history of colonialism and slavery.” 

“But slavery is not simply a matter of history.” 

Globally, more than 40 million people are still victims of contemporary slavery, including about 25 million in forced labour and about 15 million in forced marriage, according to UN estimates. One in four victims are children, and women and girls account for 71 per cent of the victims. 

Inequality ‘further reinforces’ discrimination 

“Poor and marginalized groups, in particular racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples and migrants, are disproportionally affected by contemporary forms of slavery,” Mr. Guterres said. 

“Gender inequality further reinforces patterns of discrimination,” he added. 

Slavery manifests itself through descent-based servitude, forced labour, child labour, domestic servitude, forced marriage, debt bondage, trafficking in persons for the purpose of exploitation, including sexual exploitation, and the forced recruitment of children in armed conflict. 

‘Flagrant violations’ of human rights  

The UN chief urged all sections of the society to strengthen their collective efforts to end the abhorrent practices. 

“I call for support to identify, protect and empower victims and survivors, including by contributing to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery,” he added. 

In the message, the Secretary-General also recalled the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, a comprehensive, action-oriented document that proposes concrete measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It also acknowledges that slavery and the slave trade are crimes against humanity, and should have always been so. 

“This milestone document defines slavery and slavery-like practices as flagrant violations of human rights … we cannot accept these violations in the twenty-first century,” Mr. Guterres stressed. 

The International Day 

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, commemorated each year on 2 December, marks the date of the adoption of the UN Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. The Convention entered into force in 1951.  

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Energy News

Covid crisis deepens energy efficiency slowdown, intensifying need for urgent action

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The already sluggish pace of global progress on energy efficiency is set to slow further this year as a result of the economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, deepening the challenge of reaching international energy and climate goals and making stronger government action critical, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

Global primary energy intensity – a key indicator of how efficiently the world’s economic activity uses energy – is expected to improve by less than 1% this year, the weakest rate since 2010, according to Energy Efficiency 2020, the latest edition the IEA’s annual update on efficiency trends. This is well below the level of progress needed to achieve the world’s shared goals for addressing climate change, reducing air pollution and increasing access to energy.

The disappointing trends are being exacerbated by a plunge in investments in energy-efficient buildings, equipment and vehicles amid the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic, the report finds. Purchases of new cars, which are more efficient than older models, have slowed, while construction of new, more efficient homes and other buildings is also expected to decelerate. In industry and commercial buildings, lower energy prices have extended payback periods for key efficiency measures by as much as 40%, reducing their attractiveness compared with other investments. Overall, investment in energy efficiency worldwide is on course to fall by 9% in 2020.

“Together with renewables, energy efficiency is one of the mainstays of global efforts to reach energy and climate goals. While our recent analysis shows encouraging momentum for renewables, I’m very concerned that improvements in global energy efficiency are now at their slowest rate in a decade,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the IEA. “For governments that are serious about boosting energy efficiency, the litmus test will be the amount of resources they devote to it in their economic recovery packages, where efficiency measures can help drive economic growth and job creation.”

Improvements in energy efficiency can contribute around half of the reduction in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions that is required over the next two decades to put the world on a path to meeting international energy and climate goals, according to IEA analysis. But short-term trends resulting from the Covid-19 crisis are slowing improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy, meaning that every unit of economic output uses more energy than it would do otherwise. This is mainly because energy-intensive industries, such as metals manufacturing and chemicals, appear to have been less severely affected by the crisis than other, less intensive parts of the economy.

The stimulus packages governments are introducing as part of their economic recovery plans will heavily influence future efficiency trends. They have the potential to drive investments and structural changes that can reduce energy intensity across all sectors of the economy. More than 60% of the funding for energy efficiency-related measures in stimulus packages announced by governments to date has focused on either the buildings sector or on accelerating the shift to electric vehicles, including new vehicle charging infrastructure.

Many opportunities remain untapped, however, with IEA tracking revealing a spending imbalance across sectors. No announcements have been made to increase the penetration of super-efficient appliances, while spending on vehicle efficiency beyond electric vehicles is minimal to date. The planned spending is also imbalanced on a regional basis, with announcements from European countries dwarfing those from other parts of the world. Announced spending in Europe accounts for 86% of global public stimulus announcements for efficiency, with the remaining 14% split between the Asia-Pacific region and North America.

“We welcome plans by governments to boost spending on energy efficiency in response to the economic crisis, but what we have seen so far is uneven and far from enough,” said Dr Birol. “Energy efficiency should be at the top of to-do lists for governments pursuing a sustainable recovery – it is a jobs machine, it gets economic activity going, it saves consumers money, it modernises vital infrastructure and it reduces emissions. There’s no excuse not to put far more resources behind it.”

Spending on efficiency-related stimulus measures announced by governments worldwide to date is set to generate almost 2 million full-time jobs between 2021 and 2023, according to IEA analysis, mostly in the buildings sector and mainly in Europe. However, the IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Plan suggests further recovery efforts related to energy efficiency could create another 4 million jobs globally through enhanced public and private sector investment in buildings, transport and industry.

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