Pakistan takes foreign diplomats to LoC as tension with India escalates

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Officials from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry accompany a group of foreign diplomats to the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir on October 22, 2019. (Photo Courtesy: Foreign Office of Pakistan)
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Pakistan military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor briefed the diplomatic corps and the media about the damages because of Indian in Kashmir along LoC. (Photo Courtesy – Radio Pakistan)
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Officials from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry accompany a group of foreign diplomats to the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir on October 22, 2019. (Photo Courtesy: Foreign Office of Pakistan)
Updated 22 October 2019

Pakistan takes foreign diplomats to LoC as tension with India escalates

  • Indian army chief claimed on Sunday India had destroyed four terror camps in Azad Kashmir
  • Pakistan rejected the statement, arranges foreign diplomats’ visit to concerned area to verify “facts on the ground” firsthand

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities on Tuesday took a group of foreign diplomats on a visit to the Line of Control (LOC) — a cease-fire line agreed with India that is one of the most militarized borders in the world — to debunk what it says are “false claims” made by the Indian army chief about destroying terror camp’s inside Pakistan over the weekend.

Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said on Sunday that Indian forces had “smashed four terror launch pads” in Azad Kashmir, the part of the disputed Kashmir Valley administered by Pakistan. Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said India had no evidence to support the “false claim,” and announced that foreign diplomats and media would be taken to the area in question to verify for themselves “facts on the ground.” Pakistan also said six civilians and a soldier had died in “ruthless” shelling by Indian troops from across the LoC on Sunday.

Tuesday’s visit, arranged by the Pakistani army and foreign office, comes at a time of high tension between the rivals, with Pakistan particularly aggrieved over recent Indian government measures in its part of the divided Muslim-majority region of Kashmir. Both countries claim the Himalayan region in full but rule it in part.

“The Indian side has not joined us in the visit to LoC, neither have they provided coordinates of the alleged ‘launchpads’,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal, who was part of the group, tweeted on Tuesday.

“‘Claims’ by Indian Army Chief remain just that: ‘claims’,” Faisal said in another Twitter post.

In February, India said it had hit a terror training camp in Pakistan and killed hundreds of “terrorists” and their trainers and associates. Pakistan denies any such camps exist or were hit, and said the Indian airstrikes barely destroyed a few trees. Analysis of open-source satellite imagery has also widely cast doubt on India’s claims.

During Tuesday’s visit, diplomats were taken to the Nauseri, Shahkot and Jura sectors along the LoC, including Nausada village, which Pakistan says suffered severe damage in attacks by Indian troops on the weekend.

Foreign diplomats and the media were shown pieces of the shells fired by Indian soldiers, state-run Radio Pakistan said.

According to local media reports, the diplomats also visited a local market, met shop owners and residents, and were shown damaged shops and houses.

Commenting on the absence of Indian high commission staff from the group, Ghafoor said in a tweet: “What good [is the] Indian High Commission which can’t stand with its Army Chief? Indian High Commission staff didn’t have the moral courage to accompany fellow diplomats in Pakistan to LOC.”


Saudi team meets Pakistani health officials to expedite work on new hospital 

Updated 17 min 12 sec ago

Saudi team meets Pakistani health officials to expedite work on new hospital 

  •  200-bed first ever tertiary care hospital being jointly built by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in rural Islamabad
  • Saudi Arabia building hospital as “gift to people of Pakistan” through Saudi Fund for Development,” Saudi ambassador says 

ISLAMABAD: A Saudi delegation met with top officials of Pakistan’s health ministry late last week to discuss ways to expedite construction of the first-ever tertiary care hospital in rural Islamabad, the King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud Hospital, a senior official
 at Pakistan’s health ministry said on Tuesday.

Construction is underway for King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Hospital in Islamabad on Feb. 26, 2020. (AN photo)

The Saudi delegation was led by Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) Regional Manager Dr. Saud Al Shammari and the Pakistani side by Director General Health, Malik Muhammad Safi.

Workers are seen at the construction site of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Hospital in Islamabad on Feb. 26, 2020. (AN photo)

“The total cost of the [hospital] building is Rs2,500 million, out of which Rs500 million was the cost of the land, which was provided by the Pakistani government while the remaining Rs2,000 million would be spent by the Saudi side,” Safi told Arab News in an interview
 in Islamabad on Tuesday.

He said Saudi officials had suspended the contractor hired by them earlier as they were not satisfied with progress on the project.

Workers are seen at the construction site of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Hospital in Islamabad on Feb. 26, 2020. (AN photo)

“During the meeting last week, the Saudi delegation informed us that they [Saudis] have voided the previous contractor and now are discussing hiring a new firm,” Safi said. “It will take another four months to complete the process of hiring through international bidding.”

After a new contractor is hired, it will take two years to complete the first phase of the 200-bed hospital, to which another 300 beds would be added in the future, Safi said.

“Pakistan has built a complete boundary wall and installed gates on the plot and possession has been given to Saudi officials,” he said. “Now they [Saudis] will take over control of further construction process. Their technical team is coordinating with our team to
 complete and expedite the work.”

Safi said the hospital would benefit over three million people from both urban and rural Islamabad. 

“Saudi Arabia is building a hospital in Islamabad as a gift to the people of Pakistan through the Saudi Fund for Development,” Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, told Arab News in Islamabad. “There are many welfare projects in the pipeline for
 the Pakistani people and they will be executed by different Saudi agencies all over Pakistan.”