Category: Confused Land of Pakistan


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/.

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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.

November 09, 2016

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan on Wednesday deported National Geographic’s famed green-eyed “Afghan Girl” to her native Afghanistan after a regional court had convicted her on charges of carrying a forged Pakistani ID card and staying in the country illegally.

The case of Sharbat Gulla has drawn international attention and criticism of Pakistani authorities over their perceived harsh treatment of the iconic refugee. Gulla and her four children were handed over to Afghan authorities at the Torkham border crossing, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of the Pakistani city of Peshawar, before dawn Wednesday.

Earlier, a visibly unhappy Gulla, clad in a blue, all-encompassing traditional women’s burqa, and her children were taken from Peshawar to the border in a convoy, which included several Afghan officials, said a local government administrator Fayaz Khan.

At the crossing, Gulla turned once to look back at Pakistani territory and softly murmured good wishes for the people of Pakistan — her home of many years, according to two customs officials at the scene. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Gulla was arrested in late October on charges of carrying fake Pakistani ID papers and staying in Pakistan illegally. A Peshawar court later ordered her deported. She gained international fame in 1984 as an Afghan refugee girl, after war photographer Steve McCurry’s photograph of her, with piercing green eyes, was published on National Geographic’s cover.

McCurry found her again in 2002. In 2014, she went into hiding after authorities accused her of buying fake Pakistani documents. Khan, the local official, said Gulla was to be flown to the Afghan capital of Kabul later in the day, where she was to attend a function in her honor hosted by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Ghani’s office did not immediately confirm that event was planned. Peshawar provincial authorities had reportedly tried to find a legal way for Gulla to stay in the country on humanitarian grounds, but she declined the offer, according to Khan.

After the Peshawar court sentenced her to 15 days in jail and a fine of $1,000, she fell ill and was admitted to at Peshawar’s Lady Reading hospital. On Wednesday, the hospital staff presented Gulla a bouquet of red roses before bidding her farewell, said Dr Mukhtiar Zaman. He described Gulla as still being weak from her illness.

Associated Press Writer Asif Shahzad in Islamabad contributed to this report.

By Geoff Ziezulewicz

May 10, 2016

WASHINGTON, May 10 (UPI) — Pakistani officials are pushing back against concerns from U.S. lawmakers over a planned $700 million F-16 fighter jet sale.

The country needs the eight F-16s for its battle against terrorists, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said Saturday, according to Pakistani newspaper Dawn. As such, Chaudhry said, no conditions should be attached to the jet sale, Dawn reported.

The deal initially called for Pakistan to foot roughly $270 million of the $699 million price tag, with the rest coming from the U.S. Foreign Military Financing fund, according to Dawn.

But the proposed plan, announced on the U.S. side in February, has come under fire from U.S. politicians concerned over Pakistan’s track record battling Islamist extremism and how such a sale could affect tensions with neighboring India. The deal would also include training, maintenance and logistical support.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker, R-Tenn., allowed the F-16 sale to go forward in February, but he used his power as a chairman to block any U.S. help in bankrolling the deal, Politico reported.

Senators from both sides of the aisle questioned the wisdom of selling the F-16s to Pakistan.

“The Pakistanis have been an unreliable partner over the course of the last 10 years in the fight against extremism,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said on the Senate floor. “But what I worry more is that these F-16s will provide cover, will provide substitute for truly meaningful action inside Pakistan to take on the roots of extremism.”

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., insisted the deal go through as planned. “It is pretty standard to help with the financing, especially of countries that one, are not very wealthy, and two are our allies,” McCain said. “And it’s important they have these capabilities.”

U.S. House members have also expressed concerns about the sale recently.

U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., criticized “the Administration’s recent attempt to subsidize with taxpayer dollars the sale of F-16s to Pakistan” during an April 27 Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

“Many Members of Congress, including me, seriously question the judgment and timing of such a sale,” Salmon said in his opening statement. “Additionally, India-Pakistan tensions remain elevated, and some question whether the F-16s could ultimately be used against India or other regional powers, rather than the terrorists as Pakistan has asserted.”

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2016/05/10/Pakistan-pushes-back-on-US-F-16-sale-opposition/8441462804091/.

April 27, 2016

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — An armed policeman stood guard outside the 300-year-old Sikh temple, known as a gurdwara, in northwest Pakistan. He kept a watchful eye on everyone who passed him on the narrow street, looking for a suspicious gesture, or a bulge beneath the clothes that hints at a hidden gun or a bomb.

Earlier this month, the gurdwara in Peshawar’s crowded Old City opened its doors to worshippers for the first time in 73 years. The reopening was celebrated by Pakistan’s tiny Sikh minority, but security is a constant concern.

On Friday, a Sikh leader and provincial lawmaker was shot and killed outside his home in a remote area in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province, some 140 kilometers (86 miles) from Peshawar. The murder of Sardar Suran Singh devastated the Sikh community and heightened their fears of militant attacks.

It also added to human rights activists’ despair over rising violence against religious minorities in Pakistan. “It is tragic, but this is the trend in Pakistan right now. It is increasingly intolerant,” said Zohra Yusuf, chairwoman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting of Sardar Suran Singh, but police disputed their claim, blaming the shooting on political rivalry and saying they had arrested the culprit. There was no response from the Taliban, who often make unsubstantiated claims.

Peshawar is a deeply conservative city at the foot of the mountainous Khyber Pass — once a popular route for traders and tourists travelling to nearby Afghanistan, now the focus of an extremist insurgency. Militants have attacked Peshawar schools, killing children as they studied, bombed buses of government workers and attacked Christians in their churches.

The newly-opened gurdwara has a 24-hour Sikh Security detail as well as police guards, but their Muslim neighbors believe an attack is inevitable. “Security is very necessary … for the people who want to come here for prayers without any fear,” said Gurpal Singh, security chief for Peshawar’s Sikh community.

Gohar Iqbal, a bookseller who works at a busy stall opposite the temple was certain the building would be targeted by militants. “We are worrying because of the children if something happens,” he said, gesturing to the white cement building that houses a girls’ high school, which abuts the gurdwara.

Few in this overwhelmingly Muslim neighborhood welcomed the gurdwara’s opening. Apart from the security risks, many simply don’t want Sikhs in their midst. The Sikhs that lived in the area and attended the gurdwara left when it closed in the 1940s.

It is not known how many Sikhs live in Pakistan today. The vast majority migrated to India in 1947, the year Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent. The CIA Factbook estimates that 3.6 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are non-Muslims, including Sikhs, Christians and Hindus.

Sikhs are among the smallest minorities. They are easily identifiable because of their tightly wound and often colorful turbans, and because they share the surname Singh. Many of the Sikhs living in Pakistan are internally displaced, having fled their traditional homes in Pakistan’s tribal regions as the threat posed by militants increased.

As the Taliban grew in strength in tribal regions such as Orazkai and Bajour, Sikhs were forced to pay protection money to local militant leaders or were killed, Yusuf at HRCP said. Two years ago, extremists in the area swore allegiance to the Islamic State group. IS militants routinely video the brutal killings of non-Muslims in their territory.

Charanjeet Singh, a volunteer at the gurdwara and a community spokesman, fled his home in Orazkai several years ago. He spoke to The Associated Press from inside the cavernous prayer hall of the gurdwara. Inside the sprawling compound, most of the buildings are crumbling — only the ornately carved prayer hall has been renovated.

Still, remnants of its former glory are visible — a small arch made up of odd-shaped blocks of stone, known as Waziri bricks, remains from the original structure laid around 300 years ago. Charanjeet Singh said the community had been battling government intransigence and local resistance since 2012 to reopen the gurdwara.

In the 73 years it stood empty, the gurdwara was administered by the government’s Evacuee Trust, an organization that looks after properties vacated by those who left for India during partition in 1947. Sometimes the buildings are returned to their original owners — as happened with the gurdwara — and at other times they are given to those who migrated from India to Pakistan, provided they can prove they owned property of a similar value in India.

Under the Pakistani government’s guardianship, the gurdwara went through many incarnations. At one point, it housed a vocational school and it has been used for private homes. Several members of the Evacuee Trust still work and live there.

Despite receiving a chilly reception from their Muslim neighbors, the Sikhs of the gurdwara are giving shelter to an elderly Muslim woman. In one of the ramshackle buildings lives Begum Shafqat Ara, a diminutive old woman who believes her age to be around 90. She has lived in the gurdwara for some 60 years. She never married and taught at the vocational school, where she continued to live after she retired.

“I didn’t have anywhere to go, no family. This is my home,” she told AP, sitting on the purple carpeted floor of the gurdwara’s prayer hall. Charanjeet Singh says Ara will stay. The Sikh community takes care of her and has promised to continue to do so for as long as she lives. Ara smiled a mostly toothless grin as she heard this and affectionately rested her hand on the knee of a nearby Sikh volunteer who had helped her to the prayer hall.

Despite the dangers they face, Charanjeet Singh said they will not capitulate to the militants. “If we do, they win,” he said. “We are fully determined we will keep our holy places open.”

January 18, 2016

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — A court acquitted former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf Monday in a murder case involving the killing of a separatist leader, Akbar Bugti, who had died in a 2006 military operation in Baluchistan province, lawyers said.

An anti-terrorism court announced the verdict in the southwestern city of Quetta, Baluchistan’s provincial capital. The court accepted the defense’s argument that Musharraf had nothing to do with the killing, said his lawyer Akhtar Shah. He added that he had been pleading his client’s innocence ever since the case was registered in 2009.

Musharraf’s government in mid-2000s launched a crackdown on separatist insurgents in Baluchistan province and Bugti was killed in a raid in 2006. Separatists in the province want complete autonomy from Islamabad and have been fighting for a greater share of revenue from their region’s natural resources.

The case against Musharraf was brought by Bugti’s son, Jamil Bugti. Bugti’s lawyer Sohail Rajput said he will appeal the verdict in a higher court. He alleged favoritism extended to the former military dictator due to his powerful background.

The 70-year-old Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup and then stepped down in 2008. He later left the country, but returned to Pakistan in March 2013, hoping for a political comeback. Instead, he got embroiled in court cases, including one involving treason charges, which are connected to his decision in 2007 to declare a state of emergency and detain senior judges, including the chief justice.

Musharraf, who was not in court Monday, has been released on bail pending all cases against him. He lives under tight security in the southern port city of Karachi.