82 stranded Pakistanis due to return from India on July 9 — Foreign Office 

Pakistani rangers stand next to Wagah border Pakistan. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 07 July 2020

82 stranded Pakistanis due to return from India on July 9 — Foreign Office 

  • FO spokesperson says 114 Indian nationals to also be repatriated that day
  • Around 500 Pakistanis have returned home via Attari-Wagah border crossing since coronavirus outbreak began in March 

ISLAMABAD: A group of 82 Pakistanis stranded in India because of travel restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak are scheduled to return to Pakistan on Thursday, the foreign office said on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Indian government had requested local authorities to assist in the movement of Pakistani nationals to the Attari-Wagah border crossing from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab. 

The Pakistan government has also directed Pakistan’s paramilitary Rangers to help repatriate Indian citizens via Wagah following “necessary health security protocols.”

“We are expecting our stranded nationals to return on July 9,” foreign office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui told Arab News, adding that 114 Indian nationals would be repatriated to India that day and 82 Pakistanis would cross back into Pakistan.

Around 500 Pakistanis stranded in India have returned home via the Attari-Wagah crossing since March 20, the foreign office said, adding that the process would continue until all remaining nationals had returned.

“In these extraordinary times defined by the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan believes that international cooperation and collective action as one big human family is the need of the hour,” Farooqui said. “On our part we have cooperated within the region and beyond to facilitate our own nationals and those visiting Pakistan from abroad to repatriate to their countries as smoothly as possible.”

Arch-rivals for decades, relations between India and Pakistan have been particularly strained since August 2019 when Pakistan suspended almost all trade and transport ties with India after New Delhi revoked autonomy and statehood for the Himalayan Kashmir region it administers — territory also claimed by Islamabad.

Neither country currently has a permanent ambassador in place and in the last month, ties have worsened as each country has accused the other of illegally detaining and torturing its diplomats.

In May, India expelled two Pakistani diplomats after they were held for alleged spying, claims Islamabad has called “baseless”. India also said last month it would expel half the staff in Pakistan’s embassy in New Delhi over alleged spying by officials there, prompting Islamabad to say it would respond in kind.


Political parties, army chief agree military ‘intervenes’ in politics but only at government’s request — opposition 

Updated 23 September 2020

Political parties, army chief agree military ‘intervenes’ in politics but only at government’s request — opposition 

  • Opposition politicians confirm discussing army’s ‘interference’ in politics with army chief at meeting last week
  • Army intervenes because “civilians provided the military this space, sought the army’s help,” PMLN’s Khawaja Asif says 

ISLAMABAD: Opposition politicians have said this week that they discussed the issue of the all-powerful military’s interference in Pakistani politics at a meeting with the army chief last week where General Qamar Javed Bajwa and all parliamentary parties agreed that the army had intervened in the past but only when requested by civilian governments. 
The September 16 meeting with Bajwa has generated much controversy in Pakistan and was attended by at least 15 opposition leaders, including Shehbaz Sharif, Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sherry Rehman from the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, the Aawami National Party’s Amir Haider Hoti, and others. The head of Pakistan’s military-run ISI spy agency was also present at the meeting.
Pakistan’s powerful military has ruled the country for more than half of its history, and sets defence and security policy. It has in the past denied meddling in politics.
During the current army chief’s tenure, the military has been accused by opposition politicians of electoral manipulation, meddling in politics, suspension of civil liberties and muzzling the media. The military has denied all counts.
But at the meeting last week, Bajwa admitted that the army had meddled in politics, but only at the behest of civilian politicians and governments, at least three opposition politicians interviewed by Arab News said. 

The army's media wing did not respond to detailed queries from Arab News sent via email.
“The gist of the army chief’s entire conversation was that in Pakistan, historically … whenever the military interfered - he [the army chief] gave his point of view - it happened because civilians provided the military this space, and sought the army’s help against each other,” Khawaja Asif, a senior leader of the PMLN and a former defence minister, said in a TV interview. 
“There was consensus among all people [at the meeting] that politicians ceded territory [to the army], themselves invited the army,” he added.
Asif said the “consensus point of view” at the meeting, which the army chief agreed to and reiterated, was that in Pakistan’s history, “all components of the power structure have committed excesses, which includes politicians, establishment, the army, bureaucracy, courts, media.”
“This is a territorial dispute between different power centers and we should sit down under one roof and resolve it,” the former defence minister said, saying that the solution should be based on rule of law and the constitution. 
“The territorial boundaries, according to the constitution: it is important to determine them,” he said. 
Asif said the September 16 meeting was requested by the military to discuss the issue of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region in the northwest corner of disputed Kashmir to China. In recent weeks, government officials have said Pakistan plans to declare the region a fifth province, a proposal which has unnerved neighbouring India with which Pakistan has a territorial dispute over the Kashmir valley. 
Asif said it was PPP senator Sherry Rehman who raised the issue at the meeting that the prime minister should have been present at a huddle at which a “legal and constitutional” issue such as making Gilgit-Baltistan a new province was being discussed. 
“From here, the direction of the meeting, the discussion, changed, and went in the direction of why does the army have to interfere … basically politicians provide this space… the discussion went into this direction,” Asif said. “And the prime minister’s absence became a kind of testimony, that if the prime minister had been here, if prime minister had taken charge of things, then the army chief or the military would not have had to call parliamentary leaders to discuss this but the issue [of Gilgit-Baltistan] would have just been discussed in a committee room in parliament.”
Senator Sherry Rehman confirmed to Arab News that she had raised the issue of the prime minister’s absence at the meeting with the army chief. “Why was this meeting not convened at the PM House,” she said she had asked the meeting’s participants. 
PMLN politician Ahsan Iqbal also said the army chief had called the meeting because the prime minister refused to sit down with the opposition or discuss Gilgit-Baltistan in parliament. 
“The prime minister is continuously refusing to sit with the opposition,” he told Arab News. “How can the system work this way?”
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, minister for railways, quoted the army chief at the meeting as saying the army was bound to respond “positively” when an elected government requested them for help. 
Senior journalist and head of Hum News, Mohammad Malick, said politicians often “dragged” the military leadership into political issues. 
“Why do politicians go to the military instead of using forums like parliament, media and judiciary?” he asked. “When you will take an issue to a state institution, then the institution will definitely give its viewpoint and suggest a preferred course of action.”
He said parliamentarians should have the courage to take ‘big decisions’ instead of looking towards the military for support. 
“The military does intervene in many areas, but it doesn’t mean that it intervenes in each and every issue,” Malick said. “We can’t blame them for the sins they haven’t committed.”