Model Abeer gives acting a shot in Sahir Lodhi’s Raasta

Is drama on the runway getting old for model Adeel Rizvi? She’s signed on to make her acting debut in Sahir Lodhi’s action packed thriller Raasta.

We saw a glimpse of her in the recently released trailer of the film, where it’s obvious that she plays a doctor:

Abeer confirms this, “I play a doctor who is very committed to her profession yet a highly passionate woman who ends up falling in love.”

The film also stars Sahir Lodhi, Shamoon Abbasi, Naveed Raza, Aijaz Aslam, Sana Fakhr and former model Saima Azhar. According to Azhar’s earlier interview with Images, she and Sahir play the lead roles in the film.

About her first-time acting experience, Abeer said, “Acting was more fun than I thought it would be. I actually felt quite at home and relaxed. So while it was challenging as a new profession, it was also a lot of fun.”

She hopes to keep up the acting gigs:

“I have always wanted to branch into acting. I knew I had an actress in me and that I would be good at it. I’m looking forward to my future projects, and hopefully you’ll see me on the big screen soon.”

Solar power support initiatives on the cards

The Sindh government is in talks with at least two foreign companies to explore new ways of harnessing solar power. And its planning and development department has been working on modalities of public-private partnership projects in this regard. “The USAID partnership with Pakistani banks (for clean energy project financing) is one of the many funding sources we can rely on. Besides, ADB has also agreed to partly fund such projects. In the next budget some projects will roll out,” a senior Sindh government official told this writer.

Late last year, the USAID signed $88m funding agreement with five banks in Pakistan (HBL, MCB Bank, Faysal Bank, Meezan and JS Bank) to help finance establishment of small-scale clean energy projects.

In Punjab, the provincial government is set to re-launch, with the help of some foreign fund providers, an old scheme to convert hundreds of thousands of conventional tube wells on solar power. The ongoing scheme of selling solar-powered tube wells at subsidised rates will also continue.

In the last five years, solar panels’ use has been growing in rural areas, both at households and on farms and fields. But a couple of things keep the growth of solar energy limited

The KP government has also announced a similar plan. The provincial chief minister informed media some weeks ago that his government was in talks with the World Bank to seek funds for farmers who are willing to replace their electricity-fed tube wells with solar-powered tube wells.

And, Balochistan government’s negotiations with Canada for setting up solar power plants of 50MW in 20 districts are progressing well, officials say.

In the last five years, solar panels’ use has been growing in rural areas, both at households and on farms and fields. But a couple of things keep growth of solar energy limited.

Though fully furbished solar panels and their components remain exempt from import duty, their sales in local markets are not picking up fast enough to make an immediate impact on agriculture.

Flooding of low-quality imported solar panels in 2012 under an official support scheme in Sindh scared many farmers who had then installed these panels at their farms.

But for majority of those who use solar panels for running tube wells or powering wheat threshers or fodder cutters, it is fast becoming a reliable mode of power connection, growers say.

An official of Sindh agriculture department told this writer that producing solar energy through solar panels has limited benefits and “if the province wants to let agriculture go solar at a rapid speed, introducing solar tower technology is a must.”

In this technology sunrays are allowed to beat down on a large surface area and both sunlight and the heat obtained during the process are used to produce electricity.

Under the State Bank’s refinance scheme announced in June last year, banks were to offer concessional loans for setting up solar power projects of 1MW to 50MW (or any other green energy project of similar capacity).

But bank executives say they have not seen much demand for small-sized solar power projects, adding that demand for financing 50MW solar power project, too, is coming mostly from provincial governments or large companies.

Two groups of young farmers-cum-entrepreneurs from Hyderabad and Umerkot told this writer that their requests for funding solar power projects of 1MW each are not being entertained by local banks. “Bankers want to know whether we’ve been associated with a solar power project in the past.

When we say we are going to borrow money to set up our first ever project, they refuse to listen to us any further,” laments one of the group members, an electrical engineer by profession who is now seeking fund from a foreign NGO.

Despite little official support which remains limited to subsidies on solar-powered tube wells, our agriculture sector is slowly going solar. Growers in Sindh now routinely use solar panels in tunnel farming and poultry farming. Besides small silos are also being lighted with solar LED lights.

In Balochistan, irrigation-scale water wells are being run on solar power. And, solar water heaters and solar UPS and inverters are not so uncommon in KP and northern areas. But all this is due mainly to imports. Local manufacturing is yet to take off.

Industry sources say some new initiatives to promote local manufacturing is on the cards Pakistan’s clean energy programme.

A USAID report on Pakistan’s alternative energy prepared in 2016 says solar energy programme has enough potential that can be harnessed with a mix of right policy measures and foreign and local entrepreneurs’ participants.

Afridi blames Javed’s changing vision for leaving Zalmi

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi on Sunday revealed the reason which led to his exodus from the Pakistan Super League franchise Peshawar Zalmi owned by Javed Afridi.

Afridi, on March 25, tweeted his decision to part ways with Zalmi after playing two seasons for the side — first as the captain and second as a player after giving the leadership to West Indies’ two-time World T20-winning captain Darren Sammy.

“There are a few personal things that I don’t want highlighted in the media,” said Afridi while talking to a private news channel. “I didn’t want to be a hindrance in his new goals and vision. I have a lot of commitments to my own foundation, so I wouldn’t be able to give my services completely to him also. There a lot of projects of my foundation that I need to set my focus on.”

On a question if the decision will affect the relationship that both Afridi’s families share, the 37-year-old said: “These things don’t affect our families’ friendship and relation.”

Afridi, known as ‘Boom Boom’ for his swashbuckling batting, further said that the decision was delayed due to a few commitments he had with Zalmi. “I wanted to take this decision after the PSL final but I had to fulfil a few commitments with Peshawar Zalmi so I delayed it a little. However, I did want to win the PSL with Peshawar Zalmi and we did that.”

Afridi made it to prime time news for a lot of on-pitch controversies but his name never came in the limelight regarding any off-the-pitch scandals.

“I married in an early age to stay away from controversies, to not diverge from a straight path,” said Afridi in an attempt to explain why he never became a hero for the tabloids.

However, on the question of second marriage, Afridi said every man wishes for it and is also a desire which will never materialise.

“Every man wants to marry a second time,” Afridi said laughing. “Some do it while others keep wishing for it. Mine is also a wish only.”

Afridi retired from the T20Is — the last format he was representing Pakistan in — during the second edition of the recent PSL, however, he is not planning to say good bye to cricket.

“First I will continue playing cricket for one or two years, until I think I am fit,” said Afridi of his future plans.

Meanwhile, he is also focusing on Shahid Afridi Foundation (SAF)’s projects. “I’ve worked with a lot of NGOs for the past nine years during earthquakes and floods. I have seen the suffering very closely. I want to put my effort in for them [through SAF]. I haven’t made my foundation to compete with any other NGO, it’s just a mean to an end.”

On a question of why Afridi is investing his efforts in the health sector like 1992 World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan, he said: “Whatever Imran bhai has done is great, may Almighty give him more success it that. I started off with the idea of a two-room clinic but eventually it took the shape of a full-fledged hospital. People are devoid of basic health facilities in the remote areas of Pakistan while we are living like kings in the metropolitans.”

New envoy to US presents formula for Afghan peace

WASHINGTON: The US Department of Defence anno­u­nced on Saturday that at least 2,248 members of its military had died in Afghanistan since 2001 while a total of 4,520 had been killed in Iraq since 2003.

The statistics would be another cause of concern for the Trump administration, which has vowed to reduce US war losses and is busy reviewing policy for the Pak-Afghan region.

The administration, however, seems to be aware of the limitations of the military solution and that’s why its new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban is its ultimate goal.

In this, diplomatic observers in Washington see an opportunity for Pakistan because the country can still play a role in expediting reconciliation process.

At his first public engagement in Washington the other day, Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United States referred to this role and offered a five-point formula for restoring peace in Afghanistan, depicting a negotiated settlement as the only viable option.

Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhary said at the US Institute of Peace that while the Trump administration was reviewing its policy for the Pak-Afghan region, Pakistan had received positive vibes.

The formula he presented included five key points: no military solution; better relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan; better border management; repatriation of Afghan refugees; and taking forward the reconciliation process.

Elaborating on the points, he said that all the sides needed to have more faith in their skills and that only talks could resolve the issues. War was not an answer.

The Afghan government should stop blaming Pakistan for all its problems, he said, because this was over-simplification of the issues.

The Pak-Afghan border has remained ungoverned for centuries. Mr Chaudhary said that Afghans blamed Pakistanis for allowing the Taliban to cross into Afghanistan while Pakistan had similar complaints. A better-managed border could end these accusations and counter-accusations.

The ambassador said a recent effort by the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, in which the United States, China and Pakistan also participated as facilitators, was a good move but failed to achieve its target. Yet, the reconciliation process must continue.

Dasti takes charge as acting IG of Sindh

KARACHI: Acting Ins­pec­tor General of Sindh Sardar Abdul Majeed Dasti took charge of his office on Sunday and held a meeting at the Central Police Office to review security arrangements in Larkana for observance of the death anniversary of Pakistan Peoples Party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on Tuesday (tomorrow), according to police spokesperson.Mr Majeed was appointed acting IG on Saturday by the provincial government after it sent IG A.D. Khowaja packing without getting the federal government’s nod.

Mr Khowaja was re­moved apparently beca­use the PPP leadership felt ‘uncomfortable’ over a host of issues, ranging from transfer/posting of police officials and ‘major reforms’ initiated by him, said sources in the police department.

They said Mr Khowaja had set up a board comprising representatives of the Citizens Police Liaison Committee and the army under which around 18,000 policemen were recruited. He also arranged their training by the army as presently, 4,000 newly-recruited policemen have completed training, 6,000 others are under training and 7,000 are waiting to be trained.

Besides, the outgoing IG also launched a project of setting up ‘police reporting centres’ across the province to change ‘thana culture’ with the help of modern technology. Under the plan, a couple of such centres have been set up in Karachi and Hyderabad as the Karachi police has been given Rs100 million and Hyderabad division police Rs60m, respectively, for this purpose.

To improve response of Madadgar-15 in Karachi, a plan was chalked out with the help of private persons to make all CCTV cameras functional in April.

The sources said that for the first time, IT cadre was introduced in Sindh police, which was unique as other provinces had not introduced the cadre in their police departments. Under the plan, 2,500 information technology experts would be recruited in Sindh police.

Furthermore, Mr Khowaja had taken initiatives pertaining to welfare of policemen and promotion of inspectors and DSPs up to SP level on ‘seniority basis’ as promotions were often challenged before the courts in the past. An emergency fund worth Rs100m was set up to provide medical help to policemen.

However, since Mr Khowaja was not given ‘space’ by the PPP leadership in transfer and posting, he could not bring reforms in the area, said a senior police officer.

The sources said the removal of the IG had triggered ‘confusion and controversy’ as, according to media reports, the federal government did not deem the provincial government’s decision to remove Mr Khowaja and his replacement as per law and rules.

They said the Sindh High Court’s expected hearing of the case on Monday pertaining to sending Mr Khowaja on ‘forced leave’ earlier would be ‘decisive’ in this matter as the court had already issued an ‘order’ that the government could not remove Mr Khowaja. He was sent on ‘forced leave’ three months ago.

But, sources in the provincial government insisted that the removal of Mr Khowaja and appointment of the acting IG met requirements of the law and rules, particularly in view of the Supreme Court’s directives issued in the famous Anita Turab Ali case and Faridudin case.

They claimed that the Anita Turab Ali case enshrined service of an officer at a post for at least one year, which Mr Khowaja had already completed. Secondly, Mr Khowaja was appointed on OPS (own pay scale) basis as he was a grade 21 officer while the post of IG was of grade 22. Mr Majeed was ‘senior’ officer in 21-grade and the provincial government invoked the Faridudin case in which the Supreme Court had called for giving the charge to the ‘senior most officer’ in case of replacement of incumbent officer, said the sources.

Meanwhile, an official statement said the acting IG, while chairing the first meeting at the CPO, directed officials concerned to implement a contingency plan for Z.A. Bhutto’s death anniversary as per its letter and spirit. He warned the officials that any negligence in security matters would not be tolerated.

Separately, the acting IG said he had assumed the charge of his office as per the government notification and all operations and implementation of the National Action Plan would continue without any hindrance. Mr Majeed said coordination with Rangers and federal agencies would be enhanced to further strengthen security.