Pakistan sends first planeload of aid to flood-hit Iran

Pakistan’s C-130 aircraft can be seen here carrying relief goods for victims of the Iranian floods which killed at least 70 people. The aircraft landed in Iran's Ahwaz city on Wednesday. (Photo Courtesy – Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry)
Updated 11 April 2019

Pakistan sends first planeload of aid to flood-hit Iran

  • Pakistani C-130 aircraft carrying relief goods landed in Ahwaz city on Wednesday, another plane to be dispatched tomorrow
  • Prime Minister Khan on Sunday announced all necessary humanitarian assistance for Iran as floods kill at least 70 people

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani C-130 aircraft carrying relief goods landed in Iran’s Ahwaz city on Wednesday, the foreign office said, to assist victims of floods that have killed at least 70 people and inundated some 1,900 communities.
The flood disaster in Iran, arising from exceptionally heavy rainfall since March 19, has left aid agencies struggling to cope and seen 86,000 people moved to emergency shelters.
The Pakistani foreign office said in a statement a first plane carrying relief goods had landed in Iran and another plane would leave tomorrow, Thursday. Riffat Masood, Islamabad’s Ambassador to Tehran, handed over more than 32 tons of relief material, including blankets, tents and medical kits, to Iranian officials on Wednesday.
On Monday, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke to his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif on the phone and informed him that as a “gesture of goodwill,”  Pakistani Prime Minister Khan had instructed that two planeloads of relief goods be sent immediately to the cities of Ahwaz and Khorumabad in Iran.
“Relief assistance by Pakistan would aim at meeting some of the urgent needs of the flood-affected population in Iran,” the foreign office said in a statement.
On Sunday, Khan had announced plans to offer all necessary humanitarian assistance to Iran.
“Our prayers go to the people of Iran as they deal with unprecedented flooding,” Khan said in a tweet. “We stand ready to provide any humanitarian assistance required.”
US sanctions have largely prevented the Iranian Red Crescent from obtaining any foreign financial aid to assist victims of flooding. Iran’s state budget is already stretched under US sanctions on energy and banking sectors.
Iran acted on Saturday to evacuate more towns and villages threatened by floods after continued rain in the southwest.


Multan face off against Peshawar in PSL final in Abu Dhabi

Updated 46 min 55 sec ago

Multan face off against Peshawar in PSL final in Abu Dhabi

  • First time finalists Multan Sultans are battling experienced Peshawar Zalmi in final of sixth edition of Pakistan Super League
  • “We play an aggressive brand of cricket and believe in taking the game to the opposition,” Peshawar captain Wahab Riaz says

ISLAMABAD: First time finalists Multan Sultans took on experienced Peshawar Zalmi in the final game of the sixth edition of the Pakistan Super League Twenty20 series in Abu Dhabi today, Thursday.
This is Peshawar Zalmi’s fourth PSL final. It won the PSL champions title in 2017 and was the runner-up in the 2018 and 2019 editions.
Peshawar Zalmi selected Arab News Pakistan as its international media partner in 2020 and extended this partnership to the 2021 edition. The series, being held in Pakistan, was suspended halfway due to the spread of COVID-19 in March but resumed this month in Abu Dhabi.
The Pakistan Cricket Board said on Wednesday the winning team would receive Rs75 million and the HBL PSL 6 trophy while the runner-up would take home Rs 30 million.
“In the final, we would want to keep our game plan simple, and I am very hopeful that we would play with the same spirit,” Multan captain Mohammad Rizwan said. “That is all that I will ask of my players, results are in the hands of the Almighty and we will only care about giving our absolute best.”
Wahab Riaz, Peshawar Zalmi captain, said since the beginning of the HBL Pakistan Super League, “the Peshawar Zalmi side has played like a family.”
“We play an aggressive brand of cricket and believe in taking the game to the opposition,” He said. “We will play the final with the same frame of mind. Playing the fourth final for Zalmi and first as a captain is a huge honour for me and I would like to lead the team to glory tomorrow night against a formidable opponent. It should be a great occasion.”


Pakistan arrests key suspect in Lahore bombing that killed 3

Updated 24 June 2021

Pakistan arrests key suspect in Lahore bombing that killed 3

  • Security officials say the man behind Wednesday's attack was arrested at the airport as he was trying to leave the country
  • Pakistan's Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said earlier in the day the police were close to arresting those responsible for the car bombing

LAHORE: Pakistani security forces on Thursday arrested one of the alleged perpetrators of a car bombing the day before that killed three people and wounded 25 near the residence of a convicted militant leader linked to the Mumbai terrorist attacks, officials said.
The man behind Wednesday's attack in the eastern city of Lahore was arrested at the airport as he was trying to leave the country, said Suhail Ahmad, a security official familiar with the investigation. He identified the man as Pakistani national David Peter.
Ahmad refused to share further details, saying the government would issue a statement about a breakthrough in the case achieved by the Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department with the help of the country's intelligence agencies.
Hours earlier, Pakistan's Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said in a video message on Twitter that the Punjab police were close to arresting those responsible for the Lahore car bombing.
The powerful explosion in the Johar Town neighborhood was near the residence of anti-India militant leader Hafiz Saeed, designated a terrorist by the US Justice Department and has a $10 million bounty on his head.
Saeed is the founder of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba group, which was blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. He was unharmed in Wednesday's bombing, but the windows of his home were shattered.
Last year, Pakistan sentenced Saeed to 15 years in prison in a terror-financing case, but he was never charged in connection with the Mumbai attacks. He has been serving his term at home under a government order.
Saeed's Lashkar-e-Taiba was active for years mainly in Kashmir, which is split between Pakistan and India but claimed by both in its entirety. In the Indian-administered sector of Kashmir, rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule, or as an independent country.
Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations and they have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence in 1947.


Experts divided over effectiveness of Pakistan’s new intelligence coordination committee

Updated 24 June 2021

Experts divided over effectiveness of Pakistan’s new intelligence coordination committee

  • Despite being notified earlier this year, there is little information on the composition, working and mandate of the body
  • Some analysts say it will be yet another "institutional layer" in the absence of a robust accountability mechanism

ISLAMABAD: The National Intelligence Coordination Committee (NICC) will help collate key information to counter the threat of religious militancy and terrorism, security experts said on Thursday, though some analysts also dismissed the new body as yet another institutional layer in the absence of an effective accountability mechanism.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday presided over the inaugural session of the body at the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters in Islamabad.
“A comprehensive briefing followed by discussion on enhanced intelligence cooperation was held. [The] Prime Minister appreciated the ongoing efforts and expressed satisfaction over the performance of National Intelligence Coordination Committee,” the PM Office said in a statement after the meeting.
The event was also attended by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, the heads of the services’ intelligence agencies, Intelligence Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency, according to the statement.
The government notified the platform on January 22, though little information has been disclosed to the public about its composition, working, funding and mandate.
The information ministry and the military did not reply to calls seeks comment for this piece.
Lieutenant General (r) Amjad Shoaib, a defense analyst, said the idea had been in the pipeline for the last many years, but failed to materialize due to differences within the spy agencies regarding its composition and leadership.
“The platform will help intelligence agencies pool information to develop a complete picture before forwarding it to the government and other relevant departments,” he told Arab News on Thursday.
Shoaib said various intelligence agencies were working separately in the past and were shy of sharing information with other agencies. “This gap in their working relationship led to intelligence breaches in some cases,” he said.
“The platform will help fight terrorism effectively, besides boosting the country’s overall defense and security,” he added.
Political analyst and columnist Mosharraf Zaidi called the committee a "good start" but said there was a long way to go to improve coordination.
“Coordinating functions for intelligence collection and analysis is a longstanding need in Pakistani national security equation,” he told Arab News. “But as long as intelligence is dominated by the military, the full potential of Pakistan’s national power capabilities will continue to be constrained by the legacy of civil-military divide in the country.”
Around two dozen intelligence agencies are working in Pakistan with their respective mandates, and civil-military intelligence coordination has mostly remained a hurdle in their operations.
Author and defence expert Ayesha Siddiqa said full details of the intelligence coordination body should be shared with the public for transparency in its operations since it would otherwise be “just another institutional layer” without any effectiveness.
“Civilians have not been a key stakeholder in Pakistan’s intelligence service as it has always been dominated by the military,” she told Arab News. “Only time will tell therefore regarding the new body’s efficacy.”
Siddiqa noted that only infrastructure was not required to enhance intelligence cooperation in Pakistan, and
the accountability of any institutional setup was also key.
“We have witnessed a number of incidents that resulted from intelligence breach,” she said, asking: “Have we ever had accountability of ... spy agencies?”


Local transporters' strike over tax hike raises fear of Pakistan-wide fuel shortages

Updated 24 June 2021

Local transporters' strike over tax hike raises fear of Pakistan-wide fuel shortages

  • Oil transporters are also protesting a proposed change in the loading system, saying it will help companies monopolize the business
  • The government has invited transporters of petroleum products for talks in Islamabad on Friday

KARACHI: Local transporters of petroleum products on Thursday announced an indefinite strike after a tax increase in the country’s budget, disrupting 80 percent of supplies from Pakistan’s port city of Karachi and generating fears of a nationwide shortage of petrol and diesel in the coming days.
“The government has increased the withholding tax from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent which is not viable for our business,” Israr Ahmed Shinwari of the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Owners Association told Arab News.
“They are also changing the 40-year-old loading system that operated on the first-come-first-served basis,” he continued. “This will not only allow companies to monopolize the business but also deprive about 400 people of their jobs.”
Shinwari confirmed that oil supplies from Karachi had been suspended and more than 10,000 tankers were taken off the city's roads.
“The supplies in other parts of country are continuing as per routine,” he informed. “If our demands are not met, however, we will go on a nationwide strike and take more than 42,000 vehicles off the country’s roads.”
Abidullah Afridi, president of the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Contractors Association which originally gave the strike call, told Arab News that around 1,500 tankers were loaded in Karachi on a daily basis for the city and upcountry, adding that all of them had been parked by their owners to protest the government’s measures.
“We will not back off until our demands are met,” he maintained.
Shinwari confirmed the government had invited local transporters for talks in Islamabad on Friday.
If the strike continues in the coming days, it will create an acute fuel shortage in the country.
Petroleum dealers said on Thursday they had only received about 20 percent of supplies, though they added that their available stocks had so far prevented a crisis.
“We have received around 20 percent supplies through tankers which were loaded a day before and overnight,” Abdul Sami Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association, told Arab News.
“We have managed the situation by using our available stocks,” he continued. “We hope that a way out will soon be found or else we will have to shut down our petrol pumps.”
Meanwhile, officials of the Pakistan State Oil, a state-owned entity responsible for marketing and distribution of petroleum products, denied any supply disruption due to the strike.
They said that alternative measures would be taken to ensure smooth supplies in the coming days.
So far, the oil supplies have not been fully disrupted since a faction of transporters belonging to the Oil Tankers Owners Association has distanced itself from the protest.
“In the current economic situation, the strike is not in the interest of the country and economy, so we have decided to stay away from it,” Haji Hanif Kakar, the association’s general secretary, said.


Pakistani Taliban warn women in northwest against working for government, NGOs

Updated 24 June 2021

Pakistani Taliban warn women in northwest against working for government, NGOs

  • Threaten "consequences" if women in North Waziristan take up jobs with government departments
  • In February this year, militants shot dead four female aid workers near a main town in North Waziristan

PESHAWAR: The Pakistani Taliban on Thursday warned women in Pakistan's northwest of "consequences" and meeting their "ultimate fate" if they took up jobs with the government or non-governmental organizations.

The Pakistani Taliban are an umbrella of militant groups called the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is banned by the Pakistani government and designated a terrorist group by the US. They are a separate entity from the Afghan Taliban.

In February this year, militants shot dead four female aid workers near Mir Ali, a main town in North Waziristan.

“Women are strictly warned not to undertake jobs at any government body or its stooges (NGOs) on the soil of (North) Waziristan, otherwise everyone knows its consequences,” TTP's spokesperson for North Waziristan, Abdul Rehman, said in a statement.

"Females from the adjacent Bannu or other districts continue to work with government or NGOs presumably for public welfare, but they are causing obscenity despite repeated warnings," Rehman said, adding that the women were "under our observation" and "will meet their ultimate fate soon."

TTP has been in disarray in recent years, after Pakistan military operations and US drone strikes targeting their hideouts in North and South Waziristan, but in August announced a reunion with some of its splinters. The group has since stepped up attacks on government troops and installations in tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, rising concerns that the militants are regrouping there.

The war-torn tribal belt remains one of the most underdeveloped areas of Pakistan.

Senior analyst Rustam Shah Mohmand said the TTP was trying to regain grip over the region and building pressure with threats.

"The TTP is now disorganized, desperate and wants to restore its standing," he said. "But people aren’t ready to accept them."