Pakistan ready to 'facilitate' efforts to reduce regional tension - PM Khan

A handout picture provided by the Iranian Presidency on October 13, 2019 shows President Hassan Rouhani (R) and Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan giving a joint press conference in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 14 October 2019

Pakistan ready to 'facilitate' efforts to reduce regional tension - PM Khan

  • Pakistani premier visited Tehran on Sunday to promote regional peace and security
  • Pakistan on Friday rejected reports that Saudi Arabia had asked Islamabad to mediate on Iran 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday that Pakistan will extend full facilitation of efforts to de-escalate tensions in the Arabian Gulf and help resolve differences and disputes through political and diplomatic means, as he held wide-ranging talks with the Iranian leadership in Tehran.

“Pakistan will act as a facilitator, not as a mediator to help reduce tensions – now and in the future,” Khan said addressing a joint news conference with President Hassan Rouhani.  

Khan said that “I am happy to facilitate talks between Tehran and Riyadh...I am very hopeful as I had constructive talks with the (Iranian) president.”

Pakistan's foreign office said in a statement that Khan’s Iran visit was “part of his initiative to promote peace and security in the region.”

The prime minister was accompanied by a high-level delegation including Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Special Assistant to the PM on overseas Pakistanis, Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari, and other senior officials.

Khan also met Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during his day-long visit. He is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

“The Prime Minister reaffirmed his resolve to comprehensively upgrade Pakistan- Iran relations. He also apprised the Supreme Leader of his initiative for regional peace and security,” the foreign office said.

The latest trip will be Khan’s second visit to Iran this year. He also held a bilateral meeting with the Iranian president on the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly session in New York last month.

On Friday the Pakistani foreign office in a statement rejected media reports that Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan to play a mediatory role to defuse tensions with Iran. 

“These reports are without any basis as no such letter or message was conveyed, nor has Saudi Arabia asked Pakistan to play any mediatory role with Iran,” the foreign office said. 

Deaths by lightning in Pakistani district “unprecedented,” officials say

Updated 44 min 55 sec ago

Deaths by lightning in Pakistani district “unprecedented,” officials say

  • Experts blame climate change for the “unusual” turn of events in November
  • Authorities declare a health emergency in the worst affected areas of Tharparkar

KARACHI: At least 29 people are reported to have been killed by lightning in the Tharparkar district of Pakistan’s Sindh province which experts on Saturday blamed on climate change.
“The number of deaths caused by lightning is unprecedented, even though the phenomenon is nothing new. Climate change could also be the cause of the increasing intensity of the lightning,” Dr. Sardar Sarfraz, a senior meteorological officer in Karachi told Arab News, adding that it was “unusual to experience such heavy rains in November” where the intensity of monsoons tends to drop down.
Sarfraz said that Chachro and Taaluqa were the worst affected areas of the Tharparkar district, located about 390 kilometers from Karachi, with a health emergency declared in hospitals across the Sindh province on Saturday.
“Health facilities are put on high alert with all provisions, including availability of doctors, paramedics, medicines and ambulances,” excerpts from a statement issued by the district health officer in Mithi read.
Authorities have also imposed a 24-hour emergency following reports of the deaths on Wednesday night which included several women and children from different villages.
“The cattle growers and farmers were out in the fields when sudden lightning hit them late Wednesday evening,” Allah Dad, a local farmer at Chachro village, told Arab News.
“Continuous rains and lighting have killed many people while leaving hundreds of cattle dead,” he added.
Meanwhile, local activists have prepared a list of casualties resulting from the 36-hour long heavy downpour, Abdul Ghani Pajeer, a resident of Islamkot, told Arab News.
“Teams have been deputed in the field to confirm any rise in death toll on the basis of circumstantial evidence if the victims have been buried,” Irshad Memon, the district health officer told Arab News, adding that a final figure “would be shared in the next 24 hours.
Spread across 22,000 square kms, Tharparkar is the largest desert district of the Sindh province, making it difficult for the authorities to access every village immediately.
“We have five hospitals among 48 different health centers, all doctors and paramedics are on duty. We are regularly monitoring the situation,” Memon said.
With 1.65 million people, Tharparkar has the lowest Human Development Index of all the districts in the southern province. 
The district has a fertile desert where the livelihood of the people depends on rainfall. The district, however, is mostly in the news for its severe drought issues and an increasing number of childrens death caused mainly by malnutrition.