Pakistan defends recalled Palestinian ambassador

Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan, Walid Abu Ali, second left, raises jointly hands with Hafiz Saeed, second right, the head of the hard-line Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and others during an anti-US rally in Rawalpindi on Friday. (AP)
Updated 31 December 2017

Pakistan defends recalled Palestinian ambassador

ISLAMABAD: Hours after Palestine recalled its ambassador to Islamabad, Pakistan issued a formal statement in defense of the envoy.
The Palestinian Authority recalled Walid Abu Ali after India expressed concern over his presence at a Rawalpindi rally alongside Jamaat-ud–Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed.
Friday’s rally was organized by the Defense of Pakistan Council (DPC) to protest US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The DPC is an alliance of about 40 political and religious groups, including JuD.
“The people and government of Pakistan respect the Palestinian ambassador's active participation in events organized to express solidarity with the people of Palestine,” Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said in a statement.
On Saeed’s presence at the rally, the statement added that his designation on the United Nations proscribed terrorists list does not mean he cannot exercise his right to free speech.
“This public rally was attended by thousands of people from all walks of life. More than 50 speakers addressed the rally, including Hafiz Saeed. Contrary to the impression being created, UN proscription does not place any restrictions on the freedom of expression,” the MoFA said.
“Pakistan’s unambiguous and steadfast support to the Palestinian cause was well known. Pakistan has always supported the two-state solution, with East Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian state. Pakistan’s unequivocal position was demonstrated in the rejection of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel.”
Abu Ali addressed the rally along with other speakers and shared the stage with Saeed, with pictures of them together later circulating on social media — to the annoyance of New Delhi.
India formally conveyed its anger and concerns to the Palestinian ambassador in New Delhi and to the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ramallah.
The public rally in Rawalpindi was one of many such meetings attended by the Palestinian envoy in recent weeks.
“The Palestinian side conveyed deep regrets over the incident and assured the government of India that they are taking serious cognizance of their ambassador’s presence,” a statement issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs said.
A Palestinian statement added: “On the basis of the principled and firm Palestinian position, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates considered the participation of our ambassador in Pakistan in a mass rally in solidarity with Jerusalem, held in Rawalpindi on Friday and in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism, is an unintended mistake, but not justified.
“Accordingly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, under the direct instructions of the president of the state of Palestine, decided to recall the Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan immediately.”
Saeed is wanted by the United States, which has offered a $10 million reward for his arrest. India and the US also blame him for the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which killed 166 people.
The JuD chief denies involvement in the Mumbai attacks and Pakistan maintains that India has not shared enough evidence to arrest him.

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

Updated 5 min 21 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