Jordan condoles death of 13 Pakistanis lost in barn fire

A picture taken on December 2, 2019 shows the remains of a home where several Pakistani farmers were killed in a fire in the town of Shuna in Jordan, some 50 kilometres southwest of the capital Amman. (Photo by AFP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Jordan condoles death of 13 Pakistanis lost in barn fire

  • The deaths have led to calls for Jordanian government to review workers’ conditions and rights
  • PM Khan thanked Jordanian authorities for their help and cooperation

AMMAN: Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Razzaz expressed his condolences over the death of 13 Pakistanis lost in a barn fire Monday.
The fire broke out at 2.08 a.m. (local time) claiming the lives of eight children, four women and a man, Al-Mamlaka TV quoted Iyad Amro, spokesman for the Civil Defense Directorate, as saying.
The deceased had been living in the agricultural structures in Jordan Valley, and early reports indicate that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit.
PM Razzaz has established a committee comprising members of civil defense and interior ministry to look into the cause of the fire, Jordanian government spokesman Amjad Adaileh told Arab News.
“Sincere condolences and sympathies to our Pakistani brothers who died as a result of this painful incident … and our prayers for a speedy recovery to the injured,” Adaileh tweeted.
Hadeel Abdel Aziz, executive director of the Justice Center for Legal Aid in Jordan, told Arab News: “The government continues to disregard clear evidence about the environment of workers and the need to regulate the labor market, especially in the agricultural sector, and to enhance regulation and protection for laborers in this sector.”
“Ignoring the conditions of work for foreign workers, and treating it as unimportant because they’re non-Jordanian, is counterproductive and does more harm to the country,” she said.
Labor Ministry official Bilal Al-Majali said that special set of bylaws will be introduced soon to deal with the working conditions of agriculture workers. He added that major amendments to the Labor Law were currently under works.
“The changes will include the work environment and issues of the health and wellbeing of all workers, including foreign workers,” he told Arab News.
A spokeswoman for the Pakistani Embassy in Amman confirmed that 15,000 Pakistanis live in Jordan. She said the embassy has full faith in the investigative committee that Jordan’s government has established, and awaits its results.
Earlier Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry in Islamabad said in a statement that the victims belonged to the Joya family from Dadu district in Sindh province. The head of the family, Ali Sher Joya, survived the incident. “The family reportedly migrated from Pakistan to Jordan in the 1970s and was associated with the farming profession.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan has also expressed his condolences to the family of the victims. He also thanked the Jordanian authorities for their help and cooperation, the premier’s office said in a statement Monday evening.
The Pakistani Embassy in Amman is in touch with the victims’ relatives in Jordan.
“The ambassador and other senior officials are with the family to provide any urgent assistance. The Jordanian authorities are also extending full cooperation,” the statement said.


US considering troop boost to counter Iran

Updated 06 December 2019

US considering troop boost to counter Iran

  • A source has said Defense Secretary Mark Esper was considering plans to move between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East
  • Tensions have risen sharply with Iran since Trump last year pulled out of a denuclearization pact and imposed sweeping sanctions

WASHINGTON: The United States said Thursday it was considering deploying fresh forces to counter Iran, with an official saying some 5,000 to 7,000 troops could head to the region.
Testifying before Congress, John Rood, the under secretary of defense for policy, said the United States was “observing Iran’s behavior with concern.”
“We’re continuing to look at that threat picture and have the ability to dynamically adjust our force posture,” Rood told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
A US official told AFP on condition of anonymity that Defense Secretary Mark Esper was considering plans to move between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East.
The official did not confirm where the troops would be sent, or in what timeframe, but said that the deployment would be due to frustrations with Iranian-linked groups’ attacks on US assets.
Rood, under questioning, denied a report by The Wall Street Journal the United States was considering sending 14,000 more troops — equivalent to the number sent over the past six months.
Esper also denied the 14,000 figure in a phone call with Senator Jim Inhofe, the chairman of the committee, Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said.
US President Donald Trump later tweeted that: “The story today that we are sending 12,000 troops to Saudi Arabia is false or, to put it more accurately, Fake News!“
It was not immediately clear which report the president was referring to.
Tensions have risen sharply with Iran since Trump last year pulled out of a denuclearization pact and imposed sweeping sanctions, including trying to block all its oil exports.
In September, the United States said Iran was responsible for attacks on the major Abqaiq oil processing center in Saudi Arabia, a close US ally and Iran’s regional rival.
Riyadh then asked Washington for reinforcements, receiving two fighter squadrons, additional missile defense batteries, and bringing the number of US troops stationed in the Kingdom to about 3,000.
The United States has also been alarmed by an uptick in attacks on bases in Iraq, where major demonstrations triggered by economic discontent have also targeted Iran’s clerical regime and its overwhelming influence in its Shiite-majority neighbor.
“We’re lucky no one has been killed. There is a spike in rocket attacks,” another US official said.
“It’s clearly not Daesh. Everything is going in the right direction and it’s the right range,” the official said, contrasting Iranian capabilities with those of the extremist Daesh group.
Among the incidents, five rockets hit the Al-Asad Air Base on Tuesday, just four days after US Vice President Mike Pence visited US troops there.
Iran denied involvement in the September attack in Saudi Arabia, which was claimed by Tehran-backed Houthi militia.
The tensions come as Iran itself has faced major protests set off by a sharp hike in gas prices.