Pakistan army warns Pashtun rights movement not to cross ‘line’

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Ali Wazir (L) and Mohsin Dawar, leaders of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM). (REUTERS File Photo)
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Ali Wazir (L) and Mohsin Dawar, leaders of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM). (REUTERS File Photo)
Updated 07 December 2018

Pakistan army warns Pashtun rights movement not to cross ‘line’

  • Backs US peace talks with the Afghan Taliban
  • Says India deliberately targeting civilians on line of control 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said Thursday the army had made all efforts to meet the demands of a Pashtun ethnic rights movement, the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), and warned its activists of a crackdown if they crossed a "line."

The comments by Ghafoor at a press conference came just days after Ali Wazir, the co-founder of PTM, and Mohsin Dawar, one of its main leaders, were barred from leaving the country and briefly detained.

The PTM was founded last January to protest alleged extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and “disappearances” of young ethnic Pashtun men under the guise of operations against the Pakistani Taliban and other militants in the country’s northwestern tribal regions. Leaders of the movement blame Pakistan’s military for these abuses, which the army strongly denies.

While PTM has attracted thousands of people to rallies around the country, the movement had also been met with criticism for raising anti-army slogans and disrespecting thousands of soldiers martyred in the war on terror.

"They are our people, they are hurt and have suffered losses, but still they haven’t resorted to violence till now therefore we have dealt with them politely,” Ghafoor said.

"But now they are heading in a direction where the situation might arise that they cross a line.  We request them not to cross that line where the state is compelled to use authority to control them."

In April, Pakistan's powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also criticized PTM for taking aim at the army.

“Some internal and external elements are hell-bent upon harming Pakistan’s national security. But I want to tell them that the armed forces with the support of the people of Pakistan will not let their ulterior motives to succeed," Bajwa said.

PTM gained momentum after the killing of aspiring model and shopkeeper, Naqeebullah Mehsud, by police in the port city of Karachi in January. Pashtuns thus began a peaceful sit-in in Islamabad demanding the abolition of the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulation law that applies to the tribal areas where most Pashtuns reside; the release of all political prisoners; the removal of landmines and army checkpoints from the tribal areas; and the recovery of missing people.
Ghafoor told the media that check posts had been reduced from 469 to 331 since 2016, 44 percent landmines had already been cleared and 4,000 out of 7,000 pending cases of missing persons had been settled.

Speaking about the recently concluded visit to Pakistan of U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, the army's spokesman said the army fully supported latest U.S. efforts for dialogue with the Afghan Taliban to end war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

"As much as we can, we will facilitate,” Ghafoor said when asked what Pakistan could do to help the United States negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban.

The military spokesman also raised concerns over increasing ceasefire violations by India on the Line of Control and Working Boundary. He said 55 civilians had been martyred by Indian forces this year, the highest in history. He said Indian forces were deliberately targeting civilians.

Answering questions about censorship in Pakistan media, the army spokesman denied the military was behind any moves to censor the media but urged it to play an "effective role in projecting a soft image of Pakistan."

Bulls welcome PM Khan to Karachi with 738-point stock market gain

Updated 10 December 2018

Bulls welcome PM Khan to Karachi with 738-point stock market gain

  • Premier assures promotion of CPEC project listings and reduction of advance tax
  • Move would help increase volume and market capitalization, analysts say

KARACHI: Bulls from Pakistan’s equity market gave a rousing welcome to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday during the premier's visit to Karachi after he promised to create a conducive environment for investors which would include listings of projects from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative. 

The benchmark KSE-100 Index closed on Monday in the green zone, gaining 738 points – or 1.9 percent – and closed at the 39,300-level. Investors were mainly motivated by PM Khan’s meeting with a delegation from Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX). 
“Stocks showed a strong recovery after the PM’s affirmation of a fast-track enactment of PSX proposals on taxes, regulations, and CPEC debt listings,” Ahsan Mehanti, Chief Executive of Arif Habib Corporation, told Arab News. 
Oil and gas exploration companies led the recovery, as OPEC and Non-OPEC countries decided to cut oil production by 1.2 mbpd from January 2019 onwards. This attracted investors towards oil scrips, such as PPL (+5 percent), OGDC (+4.25 percent), POL (+3.66 percent) and MARI (+2.66 percent), and the sector added 257 points to the index. 
During the trading session, the volumes increased by 20 percent to 154 million while traded value fell by one percent to $48 million, according to Topline Securities. 
“Trade remained higher, led by oversold banking, cement, and auto stocks. Renewed institutional interest on likely rationalization of PSX taxes and government measures for raising investor confidence acted as a catalyst in the bullish close at PSX,” Mehanti added.
On Sunday, a delegation led by PSX Chairman Sulaiman Mehdi met the prime minister and discussed strategies to rejuvenate the stock market. 
“The meeting was very fruitful and the PM agreed to revive investors’ confidence in PSX,” a statement issued by the PSX, after the meeting, read. 
PM Khan assured the delegation that Advance Tax of 0.02 percent on purchase and sale of shares (both sides) would be reduced to 0.01 percent. He also agreed to allow capital losses to be carried forward to up to three years from the initial one year, rationalization of taxation of holding companies on inter corporate dividend; and rationalization of capital gain tax on equities in line with real estate in the next budget, the statement added. 
CPEC is the umbrella of the Chinese mega project under the One Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that is expected to stimulate economic activity across more than 65 countries. China is investing around $60 billion in Pakistan’s infrastructure and energy projects. 
PM Khan also assured the delegation of capital market to promote a listing of government and CPEC project debt at PSX. 
“It is good sign because it will increase the depth of the market following the listing of big Chinese companies,” Zafar Moti, former director of PSX, told Arab News. 
“There are many projects under CPEC, some of them have commenced operations and others are in the pipeline in public and privates sectors,” Muhamamd Sohail, CEO of Topline Securities, said. 
“The listing of CPEC projects will increase volume, market capitalization and, most importantly, shareholders, both Chinese and Pakistani, will know the real value of their projects after price discovery,” he added. 
PM Khan, during his daylong visit to Karachi, held separate meetings with different groups of traders, including with those from the Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Karachi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and Overseas Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 
Representatives from the business community expressed concerns over the recent devaluation of the rupee, interest rate hike and gas tariff increase, and raised the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess issue.