Minister says PM busy with coronavirus response as opposition decries his absence from parliament

This file photo shows Pakistan premier Imran Khan during the joint session of the Parliament in Islamabad on Aug. 6, 2019. (Photo courtesy: National Assembly of Pakistan)
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Updated 15 May 2020

Minister says PM busy with coronavirus response as opposition decries his absence from parliament

  • Information minister says the PM is already leading the fight against the virus
  • Experts believe the prime minister’s absence can weaken democratic norms in the country

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz downplayed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s absence from parliamentary sessions to develop a national strategy against the coronavirus pandemic while talking to Arab News on Thursday, criticizing the opposition parties instead.
“What will be the benefit of attending the session and leaving all the important meetings when there will only be noise, allegations and political point scoring instead of an effort to provide serious suggestions and solutions to the problem,” he asked.
Faraz noted that the parliamentary sessions were convened on the request of the opposition, yet its top leader decided to stay away from the proceedings.
“One should first ask him [Shehbaz Sharif] as to why he has not attended the session that was requisitioned on his call,” the minister said, dismissing the opposition’s criticism that the government was not serious in discussing the COVID-19 pandemic at the topmost democratic forum of the country.
The opposition has raised the issue of prime minister’s long absence from parliament, pointing to the fact that Khan himself had promised in his first speech at the National Assembly to regularly attend its sittings and respond to the questions of its members on the pattern of the UK’s House of Commons.
However, the attendance record shows that the prime minister only attended 12 sittings after assuming the country’s top political office in August 2018.
“The prime minister will decide if he wants to attend the session depending on his engagements as he is leading the national fight against COVID-19,” Faraz said. “He [the PM] is leading our response to the pandemic and giving instructions on a daily basis.”
The opposition has accused the prime minister of shirking his constitutional responsibility by not attending the parliamentary sessions, saying that the proceedings were requisitioned to unite the nation in a critical time.
“The prime minister is constitutionally bound to take the parliament into confidence over issues of national importance, but unfortunately this is not happening despite our repeated protests,” Naveed Qamar, senior lawmaker of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), told Arab News.
He said the National Assembly and Senate sessions were convened to discuss “a national emergency” and develop a consensus strategy to deal with the pandemic, but the government had lost the opportunity.
“This attitude of the prime minister is actually weakening democracy in the country,” Qamar said.
Raja Zafarul Haq, chairman Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and opposition leader in the Senate, said the prime minister was not engaging with the opposition which was contributing to ineffective policies on important issues.
“How can we develop a national strategy against the coronavirus and other issues of public interest if the prime minister is not even willing to talk to the opposition members,” Haq wondered.
He said he was attending all Senate sessions while Shehbaz Sharif was barred by his doctors to be the National Assembly. “It’s a lame excuse that prime minister wasn’t attending the session since Shehbaz Sharif was absent,” he added.
Experts and analysts said the prime minister was not bound to attend a session under the rules, though they added that the importance of his presence in parliament could not be denied.
“If a prime minister does not attend parliament’s proceedings, then obviously his cabinet members won’t take them seriously too,” Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), told Arab News.
He said this would ultimately lead to a situation where the legislature would lose its credibility among the public and the standard of debate in parliament would further erode.
“The government is accountable to the public and this can best be achieved if the premier attends parliamentary sessions and answers questions of the members,” Mehboob added.


Google dedicates doodle to slain Pakistani activist Perween Rahman

Updated 4 sec ago

Google dedicates doodle to slain Pakistani activist Perween Rahman

  • Perween Rahman was killed by gunmen in Karachi in March 2013
  • She was an internationally renowned architect, urban planner and social activist

ISLAMABAD: Google on Saturday celebrated the late Pakistani activist Perween Rahman with a doodle marking her 65th birthday anniversary.
Rahman, an internationally renowned architect, urban planner and social activist, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting on her car in Karachi on March 13, 2013 by members of a militant outfit. 
“Today’s Doodle celebrates the 65th birthday of Pakistani social activist, architect, and urban planner Perween Rahman, who devoted her life to uplifting marginalized communities,” Google said. 
At the time of her assassination, Rahman was heading the Orangi Pilot Project initiative, which fought for the land rights of low-income residents in Karachi’s Orangi area and worked on providing housing, water supply, infrastructure, schools and sanitation to the community there. 

The undated photo shows the late Pakistani activist Perween Rahman. (Photo courtesy: Justice for Perween Rahman/Facebook)

Google said: “From meticulously documenting property boundaries and ownership information to spearheading education and community engagement initiatives, Rahman’s work soon became integral in protecting the region’s precarious community.”
Together with the government, Rahman was able to establish 650 private schools, 700 medical clinics, and 40,000 small businesses for the people in the area. 

The undated photo shows the late Pakistani activist Perween Rahman. (Photo courtesy: Justice for Perween Rahman/Facebook)

In 2013, she was posthumously awarded the Sitara-e-Shujaat, the second-highest civil award for bravery bestowed by Pakistan, for her welfare work for the people of Orangi Town.


Pakistani friends, classmates proud of pig-to-human heart transplant pioneer

Updated 25 min 49 sec ago

Pakistani friends, classmates proud of pig-to-human heart transplant pioneer

  • Pakistan-born doctor is co-founder of US program that successfully transplanted a pig heart into an American man
  • Muhammad Mansoor Mohiuddin attended Karachi’s Dow Medical College in the 1980s

KARACHI: Friends and former classmates of the Pakistan-born surgeon behind the world’s first pig-to-human heart transplant say they earmarked him for greatness from his medical school days.
Karachi-born Muhammad Mansoor Mohiuddin made headlines last week as the co-founder of the US university program that successfully transplanted the heart of a genetically modified pig into a gravely ill American man.
While hailed as a medical breakthrough, the procedure also raised ethical questions — particularly among some Jews and Muslims, who consider pigs to be unclean and avoid pork products.
None of that worried Mohiuddin’s friends and former colleagues in Pakistan, who remember him as an ace student with a passion for medicine.
“He would be so interested, always there, always available and always ready to get involved in surgery,” said Muneer Amanullah, a specialist who attended Karachi’s Dow Medical College with Mohiuddin in the 1980s.
College vice-chancellor Muhammad Saeed Qureshi said pride in Mohiuddin’s achievement had flooded the campus.
“There was exhilaration that this has been done by a graduate from this college,” he told AFP.

In this picture taken on January 13, 2022, Muhammad Saeed Qureshi, vice-chancellor of the Dow Medical College where Pakistan-born surgeon Muhammad Mansoor Mohiuddin studied in the 1980s, speaks during an interview with AFP in Karachi. (AFP)

Mohiuddin was quick to share the limelight with a team of 50 from the University of Maryland Medical School.
“They were all experts of their respective fields,” he told AFP by phone.
“They are the best surgeons, the best physicians, the best anaesthetists, and so on.”
While the prognosis for the recipient of the pig’s heart is far from certain, the surgery represents a major milestone for animal-to-human transplants.
About 110,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and more than 6,000 patients die each year before getting one, according to official figures.
To meet demand, doctors have long been interested in so-called xenotransplantation, or cross-species organ donation.
“We were working on this model for 18 years,” Mohiuddin said.
“Those 18 years were dotted with different phases of frustration — as well as breakthroughs — but finally we have done it.”

In this picture taken on January 13, 2022, students gather at a yard of the Dow University of Health Sciences, where Pakistan-born surgeon Muhammad Mansoor Mohiuddin studied in the 1980s, in Karachi, Pakistan. (AFP)

The surgery is not without controversy, however, especially given Mohiuddin’s Islamic faith.
Pigs are considered unclean by Muslims and Jews — and even some Christians who follow the Bible’s Old Testament literally.
“In my view, this is not permissible for a Muslim,” said Javed Ahmed Ghamdi, a prominent Islamic scholar, in a video blog where he discussed the procedure.
But another Islamic scholar in Pakistan gave the procedure a clean bill of health.
“There is no prohibition in sharia,” Allama Hasan Zafar Naqvi told AFP, calling it a “medical miracle.”
“In religion, no deed is as supreme as saving a human life,” added Mohiuddin.
In Karachi, the surgeon’s fellow alumni feel their former colleague may now be destined for even greater glory — medicine’s top prize.
“I think... the whole team is in for it, in for the Nobel Prize,” said vice-chancellor Qureshi.


Players, support staff test positive for COVID ahead of PSL matches

Updated 40 min 59 sec ago

Players, support staff test positive for COVID ahead of PSL matches

  • Seventh edition of PSL is scheduled to start in Karachi on Jan. 27 and run through Feb. 27
  • Last year, the tournament was postponed after players and members of the support staff contracted the virus

ISLAMABAD: Three cricketers and five support staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, the cricket board confirmed on Friday, ahead of of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
The seventh edition of PSL is scheduled to start in Karachi on Jan. 27 and run through Feb. 27.
In early March last year, the tournament was postponed after players and members of the support staff contracted COVID-19. The league resumed in June. 
PCB chief operating officer Salman Naseer, who is also the PSL director, said the positive eight cased were detected after coronavirus screening on Thursday.
“As per latest results received, in over 250 tests conducted since Thursday, three players and five support staff have tested positive and have been isolated,” Naseer said in a press release.
“Players and support staff having completed isolation and received two negative tests will start training from 24 January.”
He added that the PCB has “robust health and safety plans” to make sure the league is held in the announced timeframe and has been regularly testing tournament staff and franchise players arriving in Karachi since Jan. 14. 
“PCB remains committed to creating a safe and secure environment for all participants so that they can play and perform to the best of their abilities,” he said. 
The PSL is Pakistan’s own professional T20 cricket league, comprising six teams that each represent their city. Over the past six years, the PSL has become wildly popular with fans in Pakistan and abroad for the exhilarating action and rivalry that accompanies the tournament. 
In the first match of its seventh edition, defending champions Multan Sultans will face the home team Karachi Kings.
Quetta Gladiators will stand toe to toe with the 2017 winners Peshawar Zalmi on the following day.
In the first of the six double-headers to be played in the 32-day tournament, Multan Sultans will take on the 2020 runners-up Lahore Qalandars, followed by a contest between Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators.
After Karachi hosts 15 matches from Jan. 27 to Feb. 7, action will shift to Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium where the remaining 15 league matches and four play-offs will be held.
The final match of the tournament will also take place in Lahore.


Iran reacts to Pakistani media report on its ‘support’ of Houthi attack on UAE

Updated 22 January 2022

Iran reacts to Pakistani media report on its ‘support’ of Houthi attack on UAE

  • Iranian embassy says such claims would have a ‘detrimental effect on public opinion’ on Pakistan-Iran relations
  • Houthi rebels on Monday attacked Abu Dhabi with missiles and drones, killing three people, including a Pakistani national

ISLAMABAD: The Iranian embassy in Islamabad said on Friday it denied as “baseless accusations” a report by a Pakistani newspaper that suggested Tehran had supported Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a recent carry out attacks on the UAE.
Houthi rebels on Monday attacked the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi with missiles and drones, setting off explosions in fuel trucks that killed three people, including a Pakistani national, and injured six others.
English-language daily Dawn on Wednesday published an editorial titled “UAE targeted,” that said it was unlikely for the Houthis to develop such capabilities “without Iranian assistance.”
Reacting to the publication, the Iranian embassy issued a statement saying the newspaper had “put up negative and baseless accusations and allegations against the Islamic Republic of Iran” by accusing it of supporting the attackers “without presenting any reason or document.”
It said it “strongly denied the allegations” by the Pakistani newspaper, adding that “such claims would have a detrimental effect on public opinion toward the relations between the two countries and to overshadow the positive dimensions of relations and cooperation between the two governments for peace and durable stability in the region.”
“It is obvious that the publication of negative and untruth material is not in line with the good neighborliness and the growing trajectory of comprehensive relations between the two friendly and brotherly countries of Iran and Pakistan.”

This handout satellite image made available by Planet Labs PBC shows white fire-suppressing foam after a blaze at a fuel depot of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) in the Musaffah industrial district in the Emirati capital, on January 17, 2022. (AFP_

Dawn’s editorial team declined comment despite a request by Arab News.
The Arab coalition in Yemen has been fighting Houthi rebels, who have also repeatedly targeted Saudi Arabia with cross-border strikes.
In 2019, Houthi drone attacks on Saudi Aramco’s facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia had ignited large fires that had forced closure of both facilities and cut the kingdom’s production by nearly half.


Saudi diplomat murder: Pakistan seeks Tehran assistance to arrest suspects from Iran

Updated 50 min 35 sec ago

Saudi diplomat murder: Pakistan seeks Tehran assistance to arrest suspects from Iran

  • Hassan Al-Qahtani was killed by gunmen in Pakistan’s southern metropolis of Karachi in 2011
  • In November last year, Pakistani authorities established a special team to investigate the murder

KARACHI: Pakistani police have asked for assistance from authorities in Tehran in apprehending the suspected killers of a Saudi diplomat, who are believed to be hiding in Iran, a counterterrorism official said on Friday.
Hassan Al-Qahtani, an employee of the Saudi consulate in Pakistan’s southern metropolis of Karachi, was killed in 2011, when gunmen opened fire on his car in the city’s Defense neighborhood.
In November last year, Pakistani authorities established a special team to investigate the murder after previous probes yielded no result. Counter Terrorism Department Deputy Inspector General Omar Shahid Hamid told Arab News at the time that the team was working on “fruitful leads” from the country’s intelligence.
Investigation materials seen by Arab News include a November request to Iranian authorities for assistance in the case against three suspects in Al-Qahtani’s murder — Ali Mustehsan, Raza Imam, and Syed Waqar Ahmed — over their “involvement in target killing and terrorism activities in Pakistan.”
“We have written for mutual legal assistance from Iran,” a Counter Terrorism Department told Arab News on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
“We believe that all three accused are absconding in Iran, and we cannot arrest them without the assistance of their law enforcement.”

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier stands guard outside the Saudi consulate in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on May 11, 2011, following an attack. (AFP)

He said red notices for Mustehsan and Ahmed have already been issued, while police have called for the Federal Investigation Agency to initiate the process of issuing one for Imam as well.
Imam, alias Manzar, has a 1-million-rupee ($13,400) bounty on his head and has already been sentenced to death in two different cases, according to the Sindh police wanted list. He is a member of the banned Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan militant organization.
Mustehsan, alias Syed Waseem Ahsan Naqvi, belongs to the same organization.