Pakistan army says plan in place to integrate militant-linked groups

A resident walks past a parked car, decorated with a poster of Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh, nominated candidate of political party, Milli Muslim League (MML), during an election campaign for the National Assembly NA-120 constituency in Lahore, Pakistan on September 9, 2017. (REUTERS/Mohsin Raza/File Photo)
Updated 05 October 2017

Pakistan army says plan in place to integrate militant-linked groups

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani army on Thursday confirmed that a plan was in place to try to integrate militant-linked groups into the mainstream of the country’s politics.
Milli Muslim League (MML), a new militant party controlled by Islamist Hafiz Saeed, backed a candidate in the September by-election for a seat vacated by ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the eastern city of Lahore. The United States has offered a $10 million bounty for Saeed’s capture. Reuters reported last month that the foray into politics by MML and other Islamists groups followed the integration plan. Three of Sharif’s confidants and a retired army general said it had been presented by Inter Services Intelligence to Sharif last year, but the then premier had rejected it.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor told a news conference in Islamabad the plan was aimed at developing a constructive role for them.
Asked about the MML party loyal to Hafiz Saeed, whom the United States and India accuse of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, the army spokesman said it was part of “a process that has started.”
“It is in my knowledge that the government has started some discussion over it, that, how do we mainstream them, so that they could do constructive contribution,” Ghafoor said.
A government spokesman did not respond to calls.

House arrest
Pakistan’s interior ministry has asked the country’s electoral commission not to register Saeed’s party, but hasn’t taken any other steps to stop it. Another militant party is campaigning for a by-election later in October.
It remains unclear whether the army or the ISI went ahead with its plan despite Sharif’s rejection, or if the military and the civilian government have recently agreed on the idea.
Another Islamist designated a terrorist by the United States, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, told Reuters he too planned to form his own party soon.
Within two weeks of Sharif’s ouster, the MML party was announced. It later got the backing of Saeed and his lieutenants in the by-election to secure five percent of the vote.
The other hard-line party, Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan, gained over six percent of votes by riding on the back of a blasphemy killer Mumtaz Qadri whom it called a hero and a martyr.
Saeed has been under house arrest since January in the eastern city of Lahore.
MML is the political wing of Saeed’s charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa, JuD. JuD and Khalil’s Ansar ul-Umma organization are both seen by the United States as fronts for militant groups the army has been accused of sponsoring against neighbors, arch-foe India and Afghanistan — a charge the army denies.
Reports of the plan to bring militant-linked groups into the political mainstream have stirred debate at home and abroad.
“Now, how to take it further — that, the time to come will tell,” Ghafoor, the army spokesman’ said, “For that, the government will take a decision.”


Pakistani pilot who steered first Emirates flight remembers birth of UAE airline

Updated 3 min 1 sec ago

Pakistani pilot who steered first Emirates flight remembers birth of UAE airline

  • The historic flight took off from Dubai to Karachi on Oct. 25, 1985
  • Carrier’s success lies in leadership that prioritizes competence, retired captain says

ISLAMABAD: Thirty-five years after he steered the first Emirates flight, retired Capt. Fazal Ghani Mian says the success of the UAE flag carrier was and remains its competence and merit.

The first Emirates flight, EK600, took off from Dubai to Karachi on Oct. 25, 1985.

Recalling the airline’s birth and having observed its operations for more than three decades, the former chief pilot of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), who flew the Emirates Airbus A300 on its maiden trip, says the UAE flag carrier’s success lies in leadership that prioritizes competence.

“Emirates selects people on merit and they give them responsibility with authority,” he told Arab News in an interview this week. “No outside interference in their job. I am proud that I was a part of competent people who played a role in building Emirates airline from scratch.”

His involvement with Emirates was a result of PIA’s contract with Dubai to provide pilots, engineers and two aircraft to help establish the UAE airline.

“I came to Dubai on Oct. 1, 1985 and met Emirates Airline managing director Maurice Flanagan and their teams,” Mian said. “We discussed the tasks ahead related to the arrival of two aircraft to lay the foundation of the Emirates airline.”

Retired Capt. Fazal Ghani Mian speaks to Arab News in Islamabad on Oct. 28. (AN photo)

“We used to discuss the progress every day and prepare reports, and if there was any problem we found we used to help each other solve it.

“I am grateful to the great leadership of Sheikh Ahmed who was conducting these meetings,” he said, referring to Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, the president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and founder of the Emirates Group.

The two aircraft were painted in Emirates colors at a PIA hangar in Karachi, all in secrecy. They were then flown to Dubai.

“On Oct. 18, 1985 a team of engineers, along with two aircraft, arrived at Dubai airport with the Emirates insignia. The aircraft were kept in a hangar at the far corner of the airport away from the public eye,” Mian said.

On Oct. 23, 1985, the Pakistani-Emirati team had to operate five special VIP flights over Dubai.

“On Oct. 22, we received some uniforms very late at night,” the former captain said. “The laundry was closed but a young man working in the hotel took the uniforms and pressed them at his residence and brought it back around midnight.”

“I was praying that nothing bad would happen,” Mian said. “The first Airbus flight was around 11 o’clock and Sheikh Mohammed (bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai) and other royal dignitaries were sitting on the aircraft. We flew over Dubai for 45 minutes and we were escorted by Dubai air force fighter pilots.”

Two days later the UAE flag carrier took off on its first official flight.

“On Oct. 25, we operated the first official flight to Karachi with top royal dignitaries of UAE and employees of Emirates airline on board,” Mian said.

The smooth beginning came with a dream landing.

“Landing was so smooth that nobody realized the aircraft had landed,” Mian said. “This was the beginning of Emirates