Government pulls the plug on Internet and mobile phone services

Authorities in Pakistan have beefed up security arrangements for the chehlum or religious procession to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, given the history of sectarian violence on such occasions in the country, with hospitals placed on standby to deal with any untoward incidents. (AFP/File)
Updated 30 October 2018

Government pulls the plug on Internet and mobile phone services

  • Measures in place in major Pakistani cities to ensure security for religious procession
  • Interior Ministry orders suspension of network on request of all four provincial governments

ISLAMABAD: Internet and mobile phone services will remain suspended in major cities across Pakistan on Tuesday as part of security measures in place for the chehlum or religious procession to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain.
Authorities in Pakistan have beefed up security arrangements for the day, given the history of sectarian violence on such occasions in the country, with hospitals placed on standby to deal with any untoward incidents.
The Ministry of Interior said it had instructed the suspension of GPRS facilities and Internet and cellular phone services upon the requests of the four provincial governments and the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) administration. The services, however, will be operational as usual in Islamabad.
A number of cities from the Punjab province will be impacted by the suspension, including Lahore, Nankana, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Gujrat, Narowal, Rawalpindi, Attock, Jhelum, Sargodha, Khushab, Toba Tek Singh, Multan, Sahiwal, Okara, Pakpattan and Rahim Yar Khan.
Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan and parts of AJK including Bagh, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Haveli, and Kotli will also have the said services disconnected during the day, while in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Nowshera, Kohat, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan and Abbottabad districts will be impacted.
Other cities to be affected include Hyderabad, Sukkur, Jaccobabad, Khairpur, Larkana, and Shikarpur in Sindh which will be devoid of these facilities, according to a notification by the provincial home department.


Looking forward to Chinese president’s visit this year — Pakistani foreign minister

Updated 02 March 2021

Looking forward to Chinese president’s visit this year — Pakistani foreign minister

  • Qureshi says President Xi Jinping’s visit “will be seminal in further elevating our ties”
  • Says “complete consensus” on indispensability of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for Pakistan’s development

ISLAMABAD: Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Tuesday Islamabad was looking forward to a visit by the Chinese president to Pakistan this year. 

Qureshi made the remarks at the virtual launch of year-long celebrations to mark 70 years of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and China.

China and Pakistan consider each other “all-weather friends” and have close diplomatic, economic and security ties.

“We are looking forward to receive President Xi Jinping to Pakistan this year,” the foreign office said in a statement, quoting Qureshi. “We believe that the visit will be seminal in further elevating our ties.”

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreement has seen Beijing pledge over $60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan, central to China’s wider Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to develop land and sea trade routes in Asia and beyond.

“Pakistan supports President Xi’s visionary Belt and Road Initiative that has become a pivot for connectivity and global economic growth,” Qureshi said. “There is complete consensus across the political spectrum in Pakistan on CPEC’s indispensability for our national development.”

“Our diplomatic relations were formally established on 21st May 1951 and since then have grown from strength to strength,” the foreign minister said. “In the past seventy years, our relationship has turned into an ‘All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership’ which is an anchor for peace, stability, and development in the region.”


Pakistan extends flight bans on United Kingdom, South Africa over COVID-19 fears

Updated 02 March 2021

Pakistan extends flight bans on United Kingdom, South Africa over COVID-19 fears

  • Restrictions apply until March 14 to avoid the spread of more contagious new coronavirus variants
  • Latest development comes as Pakistan reported 42 additional deaths, increasing overall COVID-19 toll to 12,938

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s civil aviation authority is extending restrictions on travel from the UK, South Africa and some other countries until March 14 to avoid the spread of more contagious new coronavirus variants. 
The measures were imposed in January after other countries also applied restrictions on travel from Britain and South Africa.
Later Pakistan also imposed similar restrictions on travel from Portugal, Netherlands, Tanzania, Botswana, Columbia, Comoros, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Zambia, Brazil and Mozambique. These restrictions are to remain until March 14.
The latest development comes as Pakistan reported 42 additional deaths, increasing the country’s overall COVID-19 toll to 12,938. Pakistan also reported 1,163 new cases. 


Pakistan election commission establishes monitoring cell to curb corrupt practice in senate polls

Updated 02 March 2021

Pakistan election commission establishes monitoring cell to curb corrupt practice in senate polls

  • Commission has established a three-member committee to finalize recommendations for use of technology in senate elections
  • Legal experts say the commission must enforce campaign finance laws to allow level playing field to all candidates

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Tuesday it would conduct March 3 senate polls through secret ballot, though it also established a special monitoring cell at its secretariat to identify any corrupt practices in the elections.
The ECP made the announcement after the country’s top court encouraged it to use technology to make the electoral contest as fair as possible.
Following the apex court’s opinion in response to a presidential reference, the commission constituted a three-member committee to prepare recommendations for the use of technology in the Senate elections.
The committee will finalize its recommendations within four weeks, the ECP said in a statement on Tuesday. 
“The commission also decided that due to time constraint, ensuing Senate elections scheduled for March 3, 2021 will be conducted as provided in the constitution and law as per past practice,” it said. 
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government sought the apex court’s opinion through a presidential reference filed on December 23, 2020, asking if voting in senate polls could be held through open ballot.
After several court proceedings, the Supreme Court said it was the ECP’s job to ensure transparent senate polls. 
The commission said on Tuesday it had taken numerous steps to ensure transparency in Senate elections including publicizing its email addresses and phone numbers and requesting the general public and all relevant institutions to register complaints in case of any malpractice in the polls. 
The electoral body said it had established a vigilance committee, a complaint management system and a special monitoring cell to curb any corrupt practices in the polls. 
The chief election commissioner also held a meeting with heads of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to seek their suggestions in how to hold fair and free elections. 
The commission directed all relevant agencies and organizations to remain vigilant and inform the election commission for early legal action in case of any illegality in the polls. 
Lawmakers in the national and provincial assemblies constitute the electoral college and vote for 48 Senators. Each member of the Upper House of Parliament is elected for a six-year term. Half of the senate members retire after every three years and new ones are elected. The house has equal representation from all four provinces. 
Political and legal experts said the election commission should use its authority to restore public trust in the transparency of the senate and general elections. 
“Secret voting in senate elections gives legislators an option to decide as per their conscience, instead of just casting their votes in favor of their party candidates,” Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), told Arab News. 
He said that political leadership should focus on introducing democracy within their parties and make decisions through consultation instead of forcing decisions on their members. 
“If the parties select candidates through a democratic process, the issue of corruption in Senate elections will die down to a large extent,” he said. 
Barrister Saad Rasool, an expert on election laws, said transparency in the polls could not be ensured unless the election commission takes action against those who violate the campaign finance laws. 
“We cannot achieve true democracy in Pakistan if we continue to allow wealthy and influential candidates to trample the election finance laws,” he told Arab News. “It is the responsibility of the election commission to provide a level playing field to all contesting candidates.”


Two more foreign cricketers positive for virus in Pakistan 

Updated 02 March 2021

Two more foreign cricketers positive for virus in Pakistan 

  • They bring to four the number of known infections in Pakistan Super League 
  • Pakistan Cricket Board official says league will continue with testing every three days 

KARACHI: Two more foreign cricketers and one staffer tested positive for the coronavirus in the Pakistan Super League on Tuesday. 
One unnamed player was from Islamabad United, while the other two’s names and teams were not identified by Pakistan Cricket Board media and communications director Sami Ul Hasan.

They bring to four the number of known infections in the league after Australian leg spinner Fawad Ahmed tested positive on Saturday. His Islamabad side had its scheduled game against Quetta Gladiators on Monday postponed to Tuesday.

Hasan said that game will go ahead, and the league will continue with testing every three days. Spectators will also continue to be allowed.

All four people who tested positive are in 10-day isolation. 


'Pawri' power: five-second social media clip pulls Pakistan, India closer

Updated 02 March 2021

'Pawri' power: five-second social media clip pulls Pakistan, India closer

  • Video shot by Dananeer Mobeen in Nathaigali mountains shows a group of youngsters enjoying themselves by a roadside
  • She deliberately mispronounces “party” as “pawri” to poke fun at South Asians with Western accents, sparking trending hashtags and millions of views 

KARACHI: A 19-year-old Pakistani student who shot to fame after her five-second video went viral on social media across the subcontinent, hopes numerous renditions of her monologue will translate into more dialogue between rival neighbors India and Pakistan.
The short video shot by Dananeer Mobeen in the Nathaigali mountains of northern Pakistan and uploaded onto Instagram shows a group of youngsters enjoying themselves by a roadside.
Swinging around the device she is filming on, Mobeen gestures behind her and says in Urdu, “This is our car, this is us, and this is our party taking place.”
Seemly innocuous, she deliberately mispronounces the English word “party” as “pawri” to poke fun at South Asians who adopt Western accents. It immediately struck a chord in both India and Pakistan, sparking top trending hashtags on social media, and garnering millions of views and hundreds of spin-offs.
“It was the most random video. I initially had no intention of uploading it,” Mobeen said, expressing surprise at how viral it had gone and adding the trend showed the power and reach of social media.
“Pawri” monologue renditions have been used by police in India and the Delhi Commission for Women in their social media outreach campaigns.
In one video, two Indian soldiers deployed in snowy mountains give it their own spin with “This is us, this is our gun, and we are patrolling here,” while popular Bollywood actors Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone each did a version that also went viral.
Indian dairy company Amul, known for inculcating trendy takes on current issues in its advertisements, did a “this is our pav-tea” version, in a nod to a popular bread snack eaten with tea.

Even politicians jumped on the bandwagon, with a leader from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party using the catchy hook at an election rally.
“I’m honored and grateful for all the love across the border,” said Mobeen, expressing her happiness at fostering some rare friendly cross-border dialogue.
India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed nations, have fought three wars and often had tense relations since gaining independence in 1947.
Relations had most recently soured over developments in the northern region of Kashmir, which both countries control in parts but claim in full.
Last week, their militaries released a rare joint statement saying they had agreed to observe a cease-fire along the disputed Kashmir border, after exchanging fire hundreds of times over past months.
Since the video went viral, Mobeen said she has been inundated with acting and modelling offers, along with requests for product endorsements. Instead, she says she aspires to join Pakistan’s foreign services.