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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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ADB Operations Reach $32.2 Billion in 2017- ADB Annual Report

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Annual Report 2017, released today, provides a clear, comprehensive, and detailed record of ADB’s operations, activities, and financial results over the past year.

Annual operations of ADB reached a record $32.2 billion in 2017, as the bank continues to meet Asia and the Pacific’s growing development needs, according to the Annual Report. This was a 26% increase from the year before.

ADB’s total operations of $32.2 billion last year consisted of $20.1 billion in loans, grants, and investments from its own resources (up 51% from 2016) including nonsovereign operations of $2.3 billion (a 31% increase from 2016); $11.9 billion in cofinancing from bilateral and multilateral agencies and other financing partners; and $201 million in technical assistance (a 11% increase from 2016).

These figures are based on ADB’s new performance measure of “commitments,” or the amount of loans, grants, and investments signed in a given year. ADB introduced this measure in 2017 to promote project readiness at approval stage, expedite post-approval steps, and get closer to project disbursement, by placing more emphasis on when the projects are signed, rather than when they are approved by ADB’s Board of Directors.

“We began a new chapter in meeting development needs across Asia and the Pacific in 2017,” said ADB President Takehiko Nakao. “With the merger of the bank’s concessional Asian Development Fund lending operations with the ordinary capital resources balance sheet from the start of 2017, ADB has a solid capital base to support our operations going forward.”

Mr. Nakao added, “We continue to combine finance with innovative solutions to respond better to the region’s diverse and specific challenges and needs, such as rapid urbanization, climate change, and growing demand for water and energy.”

ADB’s financing of climate mitigation and adaptation reached a record $4.5 billion in 2017, a 21% increase from the previous year. The bank is now in a good position to achieve its $6 billion annual climate financing target by 2020. ADB also mobilized an additional $606 million from external financing, bringing total climate financing to $5.2 billion last year.

The Annual Report emphasizes the importance of partnerships for ADB in scaling up project financing, and for sharing development knowledge and expertise. With the support of donors, ADB established five new trust funds in 2017 that will unlock capital for climate investments through innovative financial products, increase private sector participation in climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, help cities prepare high-priority urban infrastructure investments, increase mobilization of domestic resources, and integrate high-level technology into infrastructure project designs.

On the downside, ADB’s disbursements decreased to $11.1 billion in 2017 from $12.3 billion in 2016, according to the Annual Report. Cofinancing also fell short of ADB’s targets.

“We will come up with concrete measures to increase disbursements and cofinancing, building on the new ADB procurement policy approved in April 2017 and ongoing efforts to leverage the bank’s resources,” said Mr. Nakao.

The Annual Report 2017 presents a more comprehensive picture of ADB operations than the previous annual reports in terms of numbers and institutional data. It provides expanded sections on financial highlights, sector and thematic work, and knowledge. ADB’s specific assistance to countries and regional programs, lists of trust funds and corporate reports, and organizational structure are also added.

The figures in the report update the provisional operations numbers released by ADB in January.

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New Funding for Mindanao Trust Fund to Strengthen Peace and Development in Southern Philippines

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Efforts to bring peace and progress in Mindanao were reaffirmed today following the signing of a new agreement that will build more socioeconomic infrastructure and improve literacy in conflict affected areas.

The new Program Partnership Agreement signed by the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) – the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – and humanitarian organization Community and Family Services International (CFSI) entrusts the two parties to implement the USD 3.2 million grant with financing from the Mindanao Trust Fund for Reconstruction and Development (MTF).

The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) also provided complementary funding amounting to 1 million euro to support similar activities.

“This new partnership agreement strengthens Normalization under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. It will help improve the quality of life of people in conflict-affected areas through community participation and the pursuit of sustainable livelihood within a peaceful, deliberative society,” said Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. “For four years, we have been reaching out to our fellow Filipinos in the south, touching lives and taking ‘peace by piece’ steps towards a developed Bangsamoro.”

Established in 2006 with support from development partners including the Australia, Canada, European Union, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United States, and administered by the World Bank, the MTF consolidates international development assistance for the socioeconomic recovery of conflict-affected communities in Mindanao and seeks to build confidence in the normalization process with the MILF.

From 2006 to 2017, development partners have provided PHP 1.4 billion (USD 28.9 million) to the program. Within this period, results delivered by the MTF-Reconstruction and Development Project include 573 projects that improved infrastructure, strengthen livelihoods and functional literacy in 315 conflict-affected communities across 75 municipalities. Nearly 650,000 people now benefit from clean water, better roads, and more post-harvest facilities and access to farming and fishing equipment.

“The support of the Philippine government and development partners towards projects that strengthen the Bangsamoro’s capacities to improve their socioeconomic conditions reinforce people’s trust on the Bangsamoro peace process and the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” said MILF Peace Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal.

The project also supported activities to improve livelihoods, infrastructure, and basic literacy in the Six Acknowledged MILF Camps: Camps Abubakar, Omar, Rajamuda, Badre, Bushra, and Bilal. The decision of Secretary Dureza of OPAPP, the MILF, and development partners to further intensify these efforts through the MTF highlight the partners’ commitment to peace and development in Mindanao.

“Greater economic opportunity and access to basic services foster hope in conflict-affected areas, which can build understanding and collaboration among community members. The World Bank is committed to supporting efforts that enhance the prospects for peace in Mindanao,” said Mara K. Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

“Australia is a longstanding supporter of peace and development in Mindanao, and is proud to be a partner for change in the second phase of the Mindanao Trust Fund,” said Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely. “As the first phase has already shown, the socio-economic infrastructure and literacy projects it will provide can have a remarkable impact for communities in Muslim Mindanao.”

“One of the biggest challenges for development policies is to tackle the most vulnerable communities affected by multiple conflicts and threats; to not leave them behind. This complex aim needs joint resources from national and international stakeholders following a sound local leadership. MTF has acted as a valuable driver of such efforts,” said Juan Pita, General Coordinator of AECID.

The MTF has a steering committee that oversees the implementation and evaluation of the program. It is chaired by OPAPP, BDA, and the World Bank, which also serves as the trust fund secretariat.

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Bangladesh: World Bank Increases Support for Clean, Renewable Energy

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The World Bank today approved $55 million to expand use of clean renewable energy in rural areas of Bangladesh where grid electricity cannot reach easily.

The additional financing to the Second Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development (RERED II) Project will install 1,000 solar irrigation pumps, 30 solar mini-grids, and about 4 million improved cookstoves in rural areas. The project, including the additional financing, will enable about 10 million people living in villages, shoals, and islands to access electricity and use energy efficient cookstoves. These interventions will help the country reduce carbon emissions.

We are proud to be helping Bangladesh increase access to clean electricity through solar power. Today, the country has one of the world’s largest domestic solar power programs, covering 14 percent of the population,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. “Building on its success in using solar energy to provide electricity in rural areas, this financing will also scale up other clean renewable energy options.”

The project has already built 10 solar mini-grids in remote areas, including islands and shoals to provide grid quality electricity. This additional financing will help construct another 30 solar mini-grids. These will provide about 28,000 connections to households and businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises.

The financing will also help increase use of solar irrigation pumps, a low-cost technology that is well suited to the country’s flat terrain and abundant sunshine. This switch from diesel pumps will decrease greenhouse gas emissions and save foreign exchange by reducing the government’s subsidy on diesel imports.

“In Bangladesh, indoor air pollution causes 107,000 deaths per year, mostly women and children. Traditional cookstoves used in rural areas is a major contributor to this,” said Amit Jain, World Bank Team Leader for the project. “This project will scale up use of improved stoves. Their energy-efficient design will emit 90 percent less carbon monoxide and use half as much firewood as a traditional stove. A major thrust of the project will be to increase use of affordable-fuel efficient cookstoves by the poor and extreme poor.”

Since 2002, the World Bank has been helping the government expand renewable energy programs. In the energy sector, the World Bank has ongoing support of over $1.6 billion in Bangladesh covering generation, transmission, distribution, and renewable energy.

In addition, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board has on February 27, 2018 approved an additional $20 million to support the energy efficient cookstoves project, which is their first approved cookstoves project.

The credit from the World Bank’s International Development Association, which provides grants or zero-interest loans, has a 38-year term, including a 6-year grace period, and a service charge of 0.75 percent.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then, the World Bank has committed nearly $28 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. In recent years, Bangladesh has been among the largest recipients of the World Bank’s interest-free credits.

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