Category: Confused Land of Pakistan


November 23, 2018

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Armed separatists stormed the Chinese Consulate in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi on Friday, triggering an intense hour-long shootout during which two Pakistani civilians, two police officers and all three assailants were killed, Pakistani officials said.

The killed Pakistani civilians were a father and a son had come to the consulate to pick up their visas to China, police said. The brazen assault, claimed by a militant group from the southwestern province of Baluchistan, reflected the separatists’ attempt to strike at the heart of Pakistan’s close ties with major ally China, which has invested heavily into road and transportation projects in the country, including in Baluchistan.

All the Chinese diplomats and staff at the consulate were safe and were not harmed during the attack or the shootout, senior police official Ameer Ahmad Sheikh said. They were evacuated from the area shortly after and taken to a safe place.

Following the attack, China asked Pakistan to beef up security at the mission. In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that China would not waver in its latest big project in Pakistan — the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — and expressed confidence that Pakistan could ensure security.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack, describing it as part of a conspiracy against Pakistan and China’s economic and strategic cooperation. Khan lauded the Karachi police and the paramilitary rangers, saying they showed exceptional courage in defending the consulate and that the “nation salutes the martyrs.”

He also ordered an investigation and vowed that such incidents would never be able to undermine relations with China, which are “mightier than the Himalayas and deeper than the Arabian Sea.” The attackers stormed the consulate shortly after 9 a.m., during business hours. They first opened fire at consulate guards and hurled grenades, then managed to breach the main gate and enter the building, said Mohammad Ashfaq, a local police chief.

Pakistani security forces quickly surrounded the area. Local TV broadcast images showing smoke rising from the building, which also serves as the residence of Chinese diplomats and other staff. Multiple blasts were heard soon afterward but Sheikh could not say what they were. The shootout lasted for about an hour.

“Because of a quick response of the guards and police, the terrorists could not” reach the diplomats, Sheikh said after the fighting ended. “We have completed the operation.” He added that one of the attackers was wearing a suicide vest and that authorities would try and identify the assailants through fingerprints. Dr Seemi Jamali, a spokeswoman at the Jinnah Hospital, said a consulate guards was also wounded in the attack and was being treated at the hospital.

Geng, the Chinese spokesman, said the attackers hadn’t managed to get into the consulate itself, and that the exchange of fire took place outside the building. The discrepancy with the Pakistani officials’ reports could not be immediately reconciled.

Elsewhere in Pakistan on Friday, a powerful bomb at an open-air food market in the Orakzai region of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, killed 25 people and wounded dozens of others, said police official Tahir Ali.

Most of the victims in the attack in the town of Klaya were minority Shiite Muslims. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. Orakzai has been the scene of several militant attacks in recent years, mostly by Pakistani Sunni militants, who revile Shiites as apostates.

In its claim of responsibility for the Karachi attack, the Baluch Liberation Army said it was fighting “Chinese occupation” and released photos of the three attackers. This was the second attack this year by Baluch separatists in Pakistan. Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, which borders Baluchistan, has a presence of several militant groups, including Baluch separatists.

In August, a suicide bomber rammed into a bus ferrying Chinese workers to the Saindak mining project in southwestern Baluchistan, wounding five workers. The project is controlled by the Chinese state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China. And in May, gunmen opened fire on two Chinese nationals in Karachi, killing one and wounding the other.

Friday’s attack was an uptick in the level of violence perpetrated by the Baluch separatist, said Amir Rana, executive director of the independent Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. So far this year, the Baluch Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for 12 attacks against security personnel guarding projects linked to the so-called Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor as well as to the infrastructure.

In a letter dated Aug. 15, the group released a letter warning China against the “exploitation of Baluchistan’s mineral wealth and occupation of Baluch territory.” The letter was addressed to China’s ambassador to Pakistan.

But, Rana said, both China and Pakistan have calculated the security risks, which include the threats from the Baluch separatist. “I don’t see that this will have any impact on the Chinese projects in Pakistan. These threats were already on Pakistan and China’s threat radar,” he said.

The attack will compel China to step-up security around its people in Pakistan and increase cooperation with the local authorities, said Zhao Gancheng of the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Studies. But he said that would not sway China’s government and Chinese firms from expanding their footprint abroad, even while they take additional precautions.

“As more and more Chinese people go abroad, and more and more Chinese investment goes overseas, the security situation of the destination countries has become a very important element for consideration,” Zhao told The Associated Press.

China is a longtime ally and has invested heavily in transport projects in Pakistan. The two countries have strengthened ties in recent years and China is currently building a network of roads and power plants under a project known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC.

The Baluchistan separatists have for years fought a low level insurgency in Pakistan, demanding a greater share of the province’s wealth and natural resources In a rare statement about attacks in Pakistan, neighboring India condemned the assault on the Chinese Consulate, saying that “there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism.”

New Delhi also said “perpetrators of this heinous attack should be brought to justice expeditiously.” Pakistan has long accused India of supporting Baluch separatists. The two countries have a history of bitter relations and have fought two of their three wars over the disputed region of Kashmir since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed and Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan; Christopher Bodeen in Beijing and Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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September 30, 2018

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — India’s foreign minister accused neighboring Pakistan of harboring terrorists in an angry speech Saturday before the U.N. General Assembly and rejected the notion that India is sabotaging peace talks with Pakistan, calling it “a complete lie.” Hours later, Pakistan shot back in its own speech, accusing India of financing terrorists and declaring that New Delhi “preferred politics over peace.”

India’s Sushma Swaraj pointed to the fact that Osama bin Laden had been living quietly in Pakistan before he was found and killed by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs, and said the mastermind of the 2008 attack in Mumbai in which 168 people died “still roams the streets of Pakistan with impunity.” Pakistan has said there is not enough evidence to arrest him.

“In our case, terrorism is bred not in some faraway land, but across our border to the west,” Swaraj said. “Our neighbor’s expertise is not restricted to spawning grounds for terrorism, it is also an expert in trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity.”

Swaraj and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were supposed to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this week. India called it off only one day after it was announced, following the killing of an Indian border guard in the disputed region of Kashmir.

The two South Asian nations, always uneasy neighbors, face off under particularly tense conditions in that region at a “line of control” that cuts through a rugged mountain range. The announcement of the planned meeting had been considered an encouraging sign for restarting stalled talks between the nuclear-armed neighbors. New Delhi had agreed to hold the meeting in response to a letter from newly-elected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has written his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, stressing the need for positive change, a mutual desire for peace and a readiness to discuss terrorism.

“We accepted the proposal,” Swaraj said. “But within hours of our acceptance, news came that terrorists had killed one of our jawans. Does this indicate a desire for dialogue?” Qureshi said it was the third time that the current Indian administration had called off talks, “each time on flimsy grounds.”

He said in his speech that “Pakistan continues to face terrorism that is financed, facilitated and orchestrated by our eastern neighbor.” He referred to extremist attacks in his home country, including one at an army school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2014 that killed more than 150 children, which he said were perpetrated by “terrorists supported by India.”

Qureshi’s afternoon speech prompted a vehement response from India, which exercised its right of reply at the end of the daylong meeting and accused Pakistan of spreading “fake allegations and fake facts.” Pakistan, in turn, responded by accusing India of “practicing terrorism as an instrument of state policy.”

Since independence from Britain in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, divided between the two countries but sought by each in its entirety. “The unresolved Jammu and Kashmir dispute hinders the realization of the goal of durable peace between the two countries,” Qureshi said. “For over 70 years it has remained on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council and a blot on the conscience of humanity.”

He welcomed the release of a report earlier this year by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights that mentioned “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces” in Kashmir. The report was written without visiting the region as both sides refused to grant unconditional access to the investigators. India at the time rejected it as a selective compilation of largely unverified information.

The U.N. has had a peacekeeping mission in the region since 1949, making it one of the world body’s longest-running peacekeeping operations. It is currently one of the smallest, with about 120 troops as of last month.

Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed.

07 January 2017 Saturday

Pakistan’s controversial military courts will no longer be functioning from Saturday after completing their two-year term, officials said.

“The military courts’ two-year term has been completed on Friday. The government has no plans to extend their tenure,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was quoted as saying by local channel Geo TV.

Pakistan had established military courts in January 2015 through a constitutional amendment following a gruesome gun-and bomb attack on an army-run school in northwestern Peshawar city in December 2014, which killed over 140 people, mostly students.

All the terrorism related cases, which were being tried in the military courts, will now be taken up by the anti-terror courts, the interior minister said.

The army courts -vehemently opposed by the human rights and lawyers associations- were set up to try the hardcore militants who, according to the government, otherwise avoid punishment due to weak and cumbersome judicial system.

The country’s Supreme Court, while rejecting the appeals from human rights organizations against army courts, had also upheld the government’s decision.

The military courts tried some 275 cases in last two years, in which 161 militants were handed down death penalties, while over 150 were given varying jail terms. Only 12 out of total 161 death row prisoners were executed during this period, while others’ appeals against their convictions are pending in the supreme and high courts.

Pakistan also lifted a 6-year long de facto ban on capital punishment in December 2014 following the deadly attack on a Peshawar school.

Over 300 convicts have been executed since December 2014, whereas nearly 7000 death-row prisoners are languishing in jails.

 

– Decision welcomed

Human rights groups, lawyers, and politicians have described the move as “welcoming” and a step in the right direction.

“We have been opposing the military courts since their inception because it was against fundamental human rights,” Mahmood-ul-Hassan, a Karachi-based lawyer and human rights activist told Anadolu Agency.

“But, it’s never too late. If the government has realized the negative effects of army courts on entire judicial process, it’s a step in the right direction, and we welcome it,” he added.

Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the the country’s largest Islamic parties, which had not voted in favor for the formation of the military courts dubbed the government’s decision as “a good development.”

“In a democratic society and government, there is no place for military courts. We should let the normal judicial process continue,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/182803/pakistan-abolishes-military-courts.

November 24, 2016

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s air force chief has warned arch-rival India against escalating the dispute over Kashmir into full-scale war. Marshal Sohail Aman’s warning on Thursday comes as tensions are soaring between Islamabad and New Delhi over the contested Himalayan territory after a day of violent exchanges.

The Pakistani army said Indian fire killed 12 civilians and three soldiers on Wednesday — the deadliest incident in weeks of border clashes. Aman told reporters in the port city of Karachi that “it is better if India shows restrain.” If New Delhi escalates the crisis, he says Pakistani troops will “know full well how to deal with them.”

Kashmir is split between Indian and Pakistani areas of control and claimed in its entirety by both countries, which have fought two wars over the territory.

June 15, 2017

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has given Pakistan’s prime minister an ultimatum over Qatar. In an attempt to force Nawaz Sharif to take sides, the monarch jibed, “Are you with us or with Qatar?” the Express Tribune has reported.

The king posed the question during a meeting between the two leaders in Jeddah on Monday as part of the effort to find a diplomatic solution to the Qatar crisis. “Pakistan has told Saudi Arabia it will not take sides in the brewing diplomatic crisis in the Middle East after Riyadh asked Islamabad ‘are you with us or with Qatar’,” the newspaper pointed out.

Pakistan has been treading a careful path since Saudi and other Gulf countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. However, the Saudi government wants Pakistan to side with the kingdom.

Citing a senior government official, who was briefed on the talks at the monarch’s palace in Jeddah, the Express Tribune said that Pakistan would not take sides in any event that would create divisions within the Muslim world. “Nevertheless, in order to placate Saudi Arabia, Pakistan offered to use its influence over Qatar to defuse the situation. For this purpose, the prime minister will undertake visits to Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey,” the newspaper added.

Sharif traveled to Jeddah accompanied by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior officials to discuss the emerging situation in the Gulf. It is thought that Prime Minister Sharif’s mediation visit to Saudi did not achieve any immediate breakthrough.

According to an official statement, Sharif met King Salman in Jeddah and urged an early resolution of the impasse in Gulf in the best interest of all Muslims.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170615-saudi-king-gives-pakistans-prime-minister-an-ultimatum-over-qatar/.

Islamabad (AFP)

Dec 30, 2016

China’s State Grid Corporation is set to build a $1.5-billion power line across Pakistan to enable the transmission of 4,000 megawatts of electricity from the country’s north to south, the government said Friday.

Pakistani and Chinese officials signed an investment agreement in Beijing on Thursday to build the country’s first high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) line, according to a government statement.

The power transmission line would link the national grid between the southern Pakistani town of Matiari and easternmost city of Lahore, some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) apart.

Pakistan has been struggling to provide enough power to its nearly 200 million citizens for years, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to solve the crisis by 2018.

Sharif inaugurated Pakistan’s fourth nuclear power plant on Wednesday, a joint collaboration with China that adds 340 megawatts to the national grid as part of the government’s efforts to end a growth-sapping energy deficit.

The energy sector has traditionally struggled to cover the cost of producing electricity, leading the government to divert $2 billion annually as a subsidy, according to a recent report commissioned by the British government.

China is ramping up investment in its South Asian neighbor as part of a $46-billion project unveiled last year that will link its far-western Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s Gwadar port with a series of infrastructure, power and transport upgrades.

Last week Pakistan’s main bourse announced that a Chinese consortium was set to acquire a 40 percent stake in the stock exchange in a deal estimated at $84 million.

Shanghai Electric announced in August it would buy a majority stake in the utility that supplies energy to Karachi for $1.7 billion, in the country’s biggest ever private-sector acquisition.

Source: Energy-Daily.

Link: http://www.energy-daily.com/reports/China_to_build_15_billion_power_line_across_Pakistan_999.html.

17 November 2016 Thursday

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday agreed to further expand the mutual cooperation between the two brotherly countries in diverse fields.

They agreed to further deepen the existing cooperation in trade and defense relations, settlement of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions, joint efforts for durable peace in Afghanistan and elimination of terrorism.

The two had one-on-one meeting which was followed by a delegation level meeting at the Presidency.

Mamnoon proposed to conclude a comprehensive and long-term “Framework Agreement for Defense Cooperation” between Pakistan and Turkey, which was agreed by the visiting dignitary.

He expressed satisfaction at Turkey’s cooperation for its submarine upgrade and acquiring of Super Mashshak trainer aircraft from Pakistan by Turkey.

Erdogan said that bilateral defense cooperation between the two countries would grow further in the coming days, adding that in that regard all necessary measures would be taken.

The two leaders agreed that Kashmir dispute should be resolved in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations. Expressing concern over human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir, President Mamnoon Hussain called for an inquiry of these atrocities under the UN auspices.

The Pakistani president thanked Turkish president on Turkey’s support on Kashmir issue and reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for Turkey’s position on Cyprus. He hoped that the issue would be resolved soon on which the Turkish president thanked the president and the government.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Deputy Secretary General and Spokesperson Ibrahim Kaln, Ambassador of Turkey to Pakistan Sadik Babur Girgin, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and other senior officials were also present.

He noted that bilateral trade between Pakistan and Turkey had declined during the last few years and emphasized the need to enhance it.

Agreeing to the suggestion, Erdogan stressed the need for joint ventures for enhancing bilateral trade and said soon there would be improvement in that regard.

Mamnoon hoped that Turkish investors would invest in Pakistan’s energy and infrastructure sectors.

He expressed satisfaction over growing Turkish investment in Pakistan.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/headlines/180314/pakistan-turkey-agree-to-deepen-trade-defence-relations.

November 17, 2016

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s order for 400 Turkish nationals, mostly schoolteachers and their families, to leave the country within 72 hours was being challenged in court on Thursday as hundreds of students took to the streets to denounce the expulsions.

The developments come as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is making a high-profile visit to Pakistan. The Turkish nationals include staff at the PakTurk International school chain and their family members. Ankara has accused the school of links with the movement of U.S.-based dissident cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Pak-Turk denies.

Erdogan has accused Gulen supporters of staging the failed July 15 coup in Turkey. The school on Thursday posted a new statement on its website saying the “PakTurk International Schools and Colleges in Pakistan have no affiliation or connection with any political individual or any movement or organization.”

The Islamabad High Court, which took up the petition by the 400 Turkish nationals, heard arguments from the school’s lawyer on Thursday before a break in the proceedings, according to court official Faheem Rizvi.

The petition said the expulsion would adversely affect 11,000 students in 28 branches of the school across the country. It requested that the orders be rescinded and that the school’s expatriate staff be allowed to continue to work in Pakistan, he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of PakTurk students blocked the main road in the eastern city of Lahore to protest the expulsion orders, said Pakistani police officer Adnan Naseer. “Don’t play with our future,” student Tariq Ahmad told Pakistani Capital News TV.

After talks in Islamabad, Erdogan and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a joint press conference, pledging to enhance bilateral cooperation, share their experience in fighting terrorism and complete a free trade agreement by the end of 2017.

Erdogan was to address the Pakistani parliament later in the day. On the expulsion issue, Erdogan thanked the Pakistani government for taking action against what he described as supporters of Gulen’s network, and assured the media that PakTurk students will not suffer.

Erdogan also said Turkey is seeking help from allies in dismantling Gulen’s “evil netywork,” which he claimed was also a threat to Pakistan’s security.

November 16, 2016

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the country’s powerful army chief left Wednesday for a strategically located secret area bordering India to witness a military exercise of ground and air power amid increasing tension with India over Kashmir.

Planes, tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons will be used during Wednesday’s exercise, which is aimed at checking preparedness of the army in reacting to any hostile situations, two officials said.

The drills come three days after Indian fire in Kashmir killed seven Pakistani soldier. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif will witness the exercise less than two weeks before he retires after completing his three-year term. The government has not announced who will be the new army chief.

Tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals have increased in recent months after militant attacks on Indian military facilities in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. India has blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attacks, a charge Pakistan denies.

Despite pleas from the United Nations, the two sides have continued to exchange fire in the disputed Himalayan region. The violence has forced thousands of villagers on the Pakistani side to flee for safety.

India says it has been retaliating for Pakistani violations of a 2003 cease-fire. Two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947 have been fought over their competing claims to Kashmir. Each has administered part of Kashmir since 1947.

November 14, 2016

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s military says Indian troops fired on its soldiers in Kashmir on Monday, killing seven of them and prompting return fire, as officials warned that the tense standoff between the nuclear-armed rivals could escalate.

The two sides have traded fire repeatedly in recent weeks across the Line of Control, which divides the Himalayan region into Indian and Pakistani-controlled zones. The two nuclear rivals each claim the entire territory, and have fought two of their three wars over it.

“The international community should pay attention,” Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif told Geo News TV. “It can escalate. This could be catastrophic for the region.” He added that Pakistani troops had also inflicted losses on the Indian army, without elaborating.

An Indian army officer said Pakistan had fired on Indian troops in a breach of the cease-fire, and that they “effectively retaliated.” The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said there were no casualties on the Indian side.

The latest escalation was set off by a September attack on an Indian military base by Pakistani militants. India blamed the attack on Pakistan, which has denied involvement. Tensions have run high since Indian troops killed a Kashmiri militant leader in July. The killing ignited some of the most violent protests in years, and dozens of people have been killed in India’s resulting crackdown.

Pakistani foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz said there has been an increase in the duration and frequency of indiscriminate firing by India, which has in recent weeks killed 26 civilians and wounded over 100 in villages near the frontier.

“The Indian actions, which constituted a threat to the maintenance of peace and security, may lead to strategic miscalculation,” he said.

Associated Press writer Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar, India contributed.