New 'political map' hardens Pakistani position with India over disputed Kashmir region

A new map approved by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan shows areas in the Himalayan Kashmir valley disputed with India to be a part of Pakistan. August 4, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Prime Minister's Office)
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Updated 05 August 2020

New 'political map' hardens Pakistani position with India over disputed Kashmir region

  • Pakistan PM says new map approved by his cabinet and endorsed by Kashmiri and Pakistani opposition leaders
  • Indian news agency quotes ministry of foreign affairs as saying new map had no “legal validity nor international credibility”

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday his cabinet had approved a new ‘political map’ which should be considered the official map of the country both inside Pakistan and internationally.
An image of the map was shared with Pakistani media by the PM’s office in Pakistan and showed areas in the Himalayan Kashmir valley disputed with India as a part of Pakistan with these words printed across the relevant parts of the map: “Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir. (Disputed territory — Final status to be decided in line with relevant UNSC [United Nations Security Council] resolutions.)”
A dotted line that previously marked the disputed areas has been removed from the new map.
The UN Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over the region, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of mostly Muslim Kashmir. Another resolution also calls upon both sides to “refrain from making any statements and from doing or causing to be done or permitting any acts which might aggravate the situation.”
But Pakistan’s move to release the new map signals a hardening of Islamabad’s position over a decades-long border row that has strained ties between the South Asian neighbors.
“This is a historic day in Pakistan,” PM Khan said in a televised address. “Today we are bringing a new political map of Pakistan before the world.”
“From today, in all of Pakistan, our official map of Pakistan will be this, which has been passed by the cabinet of Pakistan.” he said. “From now, in schools, colleges, internationally, this is the map that will appear.”

 

 

The PM said his cabinet, leaders of Kashmir as well as opposition parties in Pakistan had all endorsed the map.
In an address following the PM’s, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the dotted line in the old map that indicated a ‘disputed territory’ has been done away with. He said Siachen, which always belonged to Pakistan, had also been included in the new map.
The Siachen Glacier in the Karakorum range is known as the highest militarized zone in the world. Thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops contest an area at altitudes above 20,000 feet where they must deal with altitude sickness, high winds, frostbite and temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius.
Qureshi claimed that the “Kashmiri leadership” had endorsed the new map, without naming anyone.
“This map sends a message to India, it sends a message to the unarmed youth of Kashmir who martyr themselves for the cause, that Pakistan stands with them,” Qureshi said. “This map represents our goal.”
The Press Trust of India, the largest news agency in India, quoted the Indian ministry of foreign affairs as saying the new map had no “legal validity nor international credibility.”
India’s ANI news agency tweeted, quoting the government of India: “We’ve seen a so-called ‘political map’ of Pakistan that has been released by PM Imran Khan. This is an exercise in political absurdity, laying untenable claims to territories in the Indian state of Gujarat and our union territories of Jammu Kashmir and of Ladakh: Govt of India.”
The Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir has been at the heart of more than 70 years of animosity since the partition of British-ruled India into Muslim Pakistan and majority Hindu India in 1947.
Tensions reached a new high since August 5 last year when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government took away Indian-administered Kashmir’s special privileges, provoking anger in the region and in neighboring Pakistan. It also took away the region’s status as a state by creating two federally controlled territories, splitting off the thinly populated, Buddhist-dominated region of Ladakh.
Jammu & Kashmir had been the only Muslim-majority state in mainly Hindu India. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the region.
For decades, India has battled insurgency in the portion of Kashmir it controls. It blames Pakistan for fueling the strife, but Pakistan denies this, saying it gives only moral support to non-violent separatists.


Islamabad court to frame charges against suspects in Noor Mukadam case on Oct 6

Updated 12 sec ago

Islamabad court to frame charges against suspects in Noor Mukadam case on Oct 6

  • A public prosecutor says every suspect denies charges in the court and the same thing was also expected in this time
  • The Islamabad High Court has reserved its judgment in the bail application of Zahir Jaffer’s parents after completion of arguments

ISLAMABAD: A local court in Islamabad on Thursday announced to frame charges against all twelve suspects, including prime accused Zahir Zakir Jaffer, in the gruesome beheading of Noor Mukadam two months ago while another court reserved its judgment on the bail application of Zahir’s parents.
In a district and sessions court in the federal capital, Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani formally started the murder trial by distributing the copies of challan – or charge sheet – among the suspects.
At least six accused in the case, including the owner of Therapy Works counseling center, appeared before the court on Thursday on their own as they have all been on bail.
The judge directed the police to submit a complete challan in the case by October 6 so that charges could be framed against all the suspects.
The purpose of framing a charge is to give intimation to the accused of clear, unambiguous and precise notice of the nature of accusation that the accused is called upon to meet during the course of a trial.
Mukadam, the 27-year-old daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat, was found beheaded at a residence in Islamabad’s upscale F-7/4 neighborhood on July 20 in a case that has sparked public outrage and grabbed media attention unlike any other recent crime against women.
Zahir was arrested from the crime scene on the day of the murder. He was initially on police remand but was moved to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi city on judicial remand in early August.
Sajid Cheema, a public prosecutor in the case, said every suspect denies charges against him in the court and the same was also expected to happen in this case.
“After this process, the police will present all the related evidence in the case and the prosecution will bring witnesses to get their statements recorded [before the court],” Cheema told Arab News.
The principal suspect’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, are also under arrest along with three members of their household staff for a range of charges in relation to the case. Both parents had applied for a bail in Islamabad High Court after it was rejected from a district court.
The Islamabad High Court on Thursday reserved the judgment in the bail application and is likely to announce it anytime in the coming days.
During the hearing, the investigation officer of the case Inspector Abdul Sattar revealed the police were still waiting for a forensic report of the mobile phones of Noor and Zahir from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
The screen of Zahir’s phone was found smashed while the FIA was still striving to find the password of Noor’s phone to access its data, the investigator told the court.
“There are a lot of experts available in the market, you may look for a hacker [to crack the password],” Justice Aamer Farooq of the Islamabad High Court remarked.
Advocate Shah Khawar, who is representing the Mukadam family, requested the court to deny bail to Zahir’s parents as he said they were involved in the murder. He informed the court that the suspect was in touch with his parents over the phone before and after the murder, adding that they knew about the incident and had a link to it.
The judge, however, remarked the call data record could only confirm that phone calls were made between the said individuals but not reveal the content of the conversation.
The court was also told that a citizen named Zubair had informed the police at 9:45pm on July 20 about Noor’s murder at Jaffer’s residence in Islamabad.
Khawar also requested the judicial authority to form a special court to hold daily hearing of the trial, but the judge pointed out that the ordinance related to the establishment of special courts had already expired.
“It seems like you want to delay the case [by repeatedly referring to special courts],” the judge remarked.
Khawar, however, denied the notion.
“You can move a separate application for the special court,” Justice Aamer Farooq asked the lawyer of the Mukadam family.


Italy asks Pakistan to extradite parents of teen murdered in arranged marriage row

Updated 23 September 2021

Italy asks Pakistan to extradite parents of teen murdered in arranged marriage row

  • Announcement came after news Wednesday the uncle of 18-year-old Saman Abbas was arrested in Paris
  • Case has sparked outrage in Italy and been front page news since police began investigating teen's disappearance in May

ROME: Italy said Thursday it had asked Pakistan to extradite the parents of a teenage girl suspected of having been murdered by her family after refusing an arranged marriage. 
The announcement came after news Wednesday that the uncle of 18-year-old Saman Abbas had been arrested in Paris, accused of her murder alongside her parents and two of her cousins. 
The case has sparked outrage in Italy and has become front page news since police began investigating the teenager’s disappearance in May. Her body has yet to be found. 
“Justice Minister Marta Cartabia... has signed and sent to Pakistan the two extradition requests for the parents of Saman Abbas, who are under investigation for the murder of their daughter,” the justice ministry said Thursday. 
Prosecutors had on Wednesday announced the arrest on a European warrant of the teenager’s uncle on the outskirts of Paris. 
Saman Abbas, who lived in the northern Italian town of Novellara, last year refused her family’s plan to have her marry a cousin in their home country of Pakistan. 
While still a minor, she turned to social services and in November was moved into a shelter home. She also reported her parents to police, but on April 11 returned to them. 
Police began searching for her on May 5, when officers visited her house and found nobody. 
Officers then discovered that the girl’s parents had left for Pakistan without her, and found images from a nearby security camera that made them fear the worst.
Late on April 29, five people could be seen walking off from the house holding shovels, a crowbar and a bucket, and returning after about two-and-a-half hours.
One cousin accused in the case is currently in jail in Italy. 


China asks Pakistan to improve security of its workers as ‘precondition’ for CPEC progress

Updated 23 min 41 sec ago

China asks Pakistan to improve security of its workers as ‘precondition’ for CPEC progress

  • Demand came during meeting of CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee, held after two-year hiatus
  • At least nine Chinese nationals have been killed in recent attacks in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: China on Thursday asked Islamabad to improve security conditions for its workers in Pakistan as a “precondition” for progress on the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects. 
The demand came during a meeting of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC), the apex decision-making body for the economic corridor projects.
The meeting, held after a hiatus of almost two years, was co-chaired by Pakistan’s Planning Minister Asad Umar and Chinese National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) deputy chief Ning Jizhe. 
“Recently, we have seen the unfortunate increase in tragic incidents happening to Chinese people and Chinese companies in Pakistan,” Ning said. 
“We hope that Pakistan will take effective measures to strengthen protection of Chinese people and Chinese employees in Pakistan so they can work in [a] safe environment.” 

Pakistani government offiicials attend the meeting of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) held in Islamabad, Pakistan, on September 23, 2021. (Photo courtesy: CPEC Authority) 

Last month, a suicide bomb attack on a motorcade carrying Chinese personnel injured one Chinese national and killed two local children in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province. The incident took place on the East Bay Expressway in the port city of Gwadar, which lies at the heart of CPEC. 
The Gwadar attack followed the 14 July bombing that killed nine Chinese nationals among 13 people, who were en route to a dam construction site in northern Pakistan. 
Planning Minister Umar noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan himself led security reviews after the recent attacks targeting Chinese nationals in Pakistan. 
“[An] expanded security system has been designed, it has been shared with the Chinese,” Umar said at Thursday’s meeting, adding that he was confident of a secure environment for workers on the joint projects. 
CPEC has seen Beijing pledge over $60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan, central to China’s wider Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to develop land and sea trade routes in Asia and beyond. 
Umar said the Pakistani government was fully committed to CPEC and considered it critical for the country’s growth and development. 
In a Twitter post earlier, he expressed hopes that the “JCC will lay the foundation for further acceleration and broadening of CPEC.” 

 


Fintech startup Tag amasses $12 million in Pakistan’s largest ever seed round

Updated 43 min 39 sec ago

Fintech startup Tag amasses $12 million in Pakistan’s largest ever seed round

  • The round valued Tag at $100 million, took just two weeks to close
  • Pakistani startups have attracted over $228 million investment in just first eight months of 2021

ISLAMABAD: Tag, a one-year-old Pakistani startup that offers banking and financial services, has raised over $12 million in what is now the largest ever seed financing round in Pakistan, the company said on Wednesday. 
Pakistan’s startup ecosystem has received a major boost this year, with local firms getting over $228 million in investment just in the first eight months of 2021, compared to $77 million in 2020, according to Ignite, a Pakistani government-owned non-profit company. 
Liberty City Ventures, Canaan Partners, Addition, Mantis and Banana Capital and others financed the round that brought Tag’s to-date raise to over $17.5 million. This was the first time many of these investors, including Lee Fixel’s Addition, have invested in a Pakistani startup. 
“With this round the value of Tag has reached $100 million,” Talal Ahmed Gondal, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tag, told Arab News without divulging more details. 
The round comes as the startup builds one of the crucial railroads for Pakistani users. “We are trying to become both Revolut and Paytm in Pakistan...,” the 29-year-old founder said. 
The startup partners with public and private firms to offer their employees banking services, including getting their salaries on the Tag account and Visa-powered virtual and physical cards. It also provides a range of business-to-consumer (B2C) offerings such as the ability to pay others online and top up utility bills that are available to any user in Pakistan who signs up to the platform. 
Gondal said signing up on Tag, which included verification of an individual’s identity, just took three minutes. 
“We eventually want to offer the complete set of banking and financial services to users in Pakistan,” he said. 

The picture shows prototype of the interface of the fintech application, Tag. (Photo courtesy: AP via Business wire)

Before the launch of Tag, Gondal worked as an investor in Europe. He said he had long decided to return to Pakistan and start a firm to serve people back home, but was waiting for the right moment. 
A number of young startups have made splashy funding announcements in recent weeks. Quick-commerce startup Airlift unveiled a record $85 million Series B round last month, followed by business-to-business (B2B) venture Bazaar’s record $30 million Series A round. 
Gondal said startups were finally having a moment in Pakistan. 
“Each country’s startup ecosystem goes through various waves,” he told US-based TechCrunch website on Wednesday. “In India, we saw e-commerce firms like Flipkart flourish in the first wave. Firms like Ola, Zomato and Swiggy and fintech firms like PhonePe and Paytm made inroads in the waves after that.” 
The Tag founder said he saw a similar trend in Berlin: “I had the conviction that a similar thing would play out in Pakistan.” 
Tag says it is now working to broaden its product offerings and hire talent to win the trust of the market. 
“Liberty City Ventures is proud to support a visionary leader like Talal in his efforts to expand financial inclusion for the underserved and underbanked,” Murtaza Akbar, managing partner at Liberty City Ventures, said in a statement. “We expect the world class team he has assembled at TAG to build a regional fintech powerhouse.” 
In June, Tag had closed $5.5 million pre-seed round led by Venture Capitals. It is authorized by the State Bank of Pakistan to operate as Electronic Money Institution (EMI) and plans to launch the country’s first digital bank. 


Pakistan says international community can’t ‘turn away’ from reality of Afghan Taliban

Updated 23 September 2021

Pakistan says international community can’t ‘turn away’ from reality of Afghan Taliban

  • Pakistan’s government is proposing global powers develop a road map that leads to diplomatic recognition of Taliban
  • Expectations from Taliban include an inclusive government and assurances for human rights, especially for women and girls

UNITED NATIONS: Be realistic. Show patience. Engage. And above all, don’t isolate. Those are the pillars of an approach emerging in Pakistan to deal with the fledgling government that is suddenly running the country next door once again — Afghanistan’s resurgent, often-volatile Taliban.
Pakistan’s government is proposing that the international community develop a road map that leads to diplomatic recognition of the Taliban — with incentives if they fulfill its requirements — and then sit down face to face and talk it out with the militia’s leaders.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi outlined the idea Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s meeting of world leaders.
“If they live up to those expectations, they would make it easier for themselves, they will get acceptability, which is required for recognition,” Qureshi told the AP. “At the same time, the international community has to realize: What’s the alternative? What are the options? This is the reality, and can they turn away from this reality?”
He said Pakistan “is in sync with the international community” in wanting to see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan with no space for terrorist elements to increase their foothold, and for the Taliban to ensure “that Afghan soil is never used again against any country.”
“But we are saying, be more realistic in your approach,” Qureshi said. “Try an innovative way of engaging with them. The way that they were being dealt with has not worked.”
Expectations from the Taliban leadership could include an inclusive government and assurances for human rights, especially for women and girls, Qureshi said. In turn, he said, the Afghan government might be motivated by receiving development, economic and reconstruction aid to help recover from decades of war.
He urged the United States, the International Monetary Fund and other countries that have frozen Afghan government funds to immediately release the money so it can be used “for promoting normalcy in Afghanistan.” And he pledged that Pakistan is ready to play a “constructive, positive” role in opening communications channels with the Taliban because it, too, benefits from peace and stability.
This is the second time that the Taliban, who adhere to a strict version of Islam, have ruled Afghanistan. The first time, from 1996 to 2001, ended when they were ousted by a US-led coalition after the 9/11 attacks, which were directed by Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan.
During that rule, Taliban leaders and police barred girls from school and prohibited women from working outside the home or leaving it without a male escort. After they were overthrown, Afghan women still faced challenges in the male-dominated society but increasingly stepped into powerful positions in government and numerous fields.
But when the US withdrew its military from Afghanistan last month, the government collapsed and a new generation of the Taliban resurged, taking over almost immediately. In the weeks since, many countries have expressed disappointment that the Taliban’s interim government is not inclusive as its spokesman had promised.
While the new government has allowed young girls to attend school, it has not yet allowed older girls to return to secondary school, and most women to return to work despite a promise in April that women “can serve their society in the education, business, health and social fields while maintaining correct Islamic hijab.”
Pakistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan, has a long and sometimes conflicted relationship with its neighbor that includes attempts to prevent terrorism there and, some say, also encouraging it, which Islamabad denies. The Islamabad government has a fundamental vested interest in ensuring that whatever the new Afghanistan offers, it is not a threat to Pakistan.
That, Qureshi says, requires a steady and calibrated approach.
“It has to be a realistic assessment, a pragmatic view on both sides, and that will set the tone for recognition eventually,” the Pakistani minister said. The good news, he said: The Taliban are listening, “and they are not insensitive to what is being said by neighbors and the international community.”
How does he know they’re listening? He says the interim government, drawn mostly from Afghanistan’s dominant Pashtun ethnic group, made some additions on Tuesday. It added representatives from the country’s ethnic minorities — Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, who are Shiite Muslims in the majority Sunni Muslim country.
“Yes, there are no women yet,” Qureshi said. “But let us let the situation evolve.”
He stressed that the Taliban must make decisions in coming days and weeks that will enhance their acceptability.
“What the international community can do, in my view, is sit together and work out a roadmap,” Qureshi said. “And if they fulfill those expectations, this is what the international community can do to help them stabilize their economy. This is the humanitarian assistance that can be provided. This is how they can help rebuild Afghanistan, reconstruction and so on and so forth.”
He added: “With this roadmap ahead, I think an international engagement can be more productive.”
On Wednesday night, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council that all five nations — the United States, China, Britain, Russia and France — want “an Afghanistan at peace, stable, where humanitarian aid can be distributed without problems or discrimination.”
He also described a hoped-for “Afghanistan where the rights of women and girls are respected, an Afghanistan that won’t be a sanctuary for terrorism, an Afghanistan where we have an inclusive government representing the different sectors of the population.”
Qureshi said there are different forums where the international community can work out the best way to approach the situation. In the meantime, he asserted, things seem to be stabilizing. Less than six weeks after the Taliban seized power on Aug. 15, he said, Pakistan has received information that the law-and-order situation has improved, fighting has stopped and many internally displaced Afghans are going home.
“That’s a positive sign,” Qureshi said.
He said Pakistan hasn’t seen a new influx of Afghan refugees — a sensitive issue for Pakistanis, who are highly motivated to prevent it. A humanitarian crisis, a foundering economy and workers who return to jobs and school but aren’t getting salaries and don’t have money could cause Afghans to flee across the porous border into Pakistan, which has suffered economically from such arrivals over decades of conflict.
Qureshi prescribed patience and realism. After all, he says, every previous attempt to stabilize Afghanistan has failed, so don’t expect new efforts to produce immediate success with the Taliban. If the United States and its allies “could not convince them or eliminate them in two decades, how will you do it in the next two months or the next two years?” he wondered.
Asked whether he had a prediction of what Afghanistan might be like in six months, Qureshi turned the question back on his AP interviewer, replying: “Can you guarantee me US behavior over the next six months?”