India’s August 5 action in disputed Kashmir was a 'strategic blunder' — PM Khan

Pakistan premier Imran Khan addresses the Azad Jammu and Kashmir assembly in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, on Aug. 5, 2020. (PID)
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Updated 05 August 2020

India’s August 5 action in disputed Kashmir was a 'strategic blunder' — PM Khan

  • Pakistan observes day of solidarity with Kashmir on anniversary of lost autonomy
  • PM Modi marks the day by launching the construction of Ram Mandir, making Pakistan condemn Hindu majoritarianism in India

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday Indian Prime Minister Nardendra Modi’s move to revoke the special status of the disputed Kashmir region last August was a “strategic blunder.”
The prime minister was in Muzaffarabad on ‘Youm-e-Istehsal,’ a day of solidarity observed across Pakistan to mark the one year anniversary of India stripping Kashmir of its autonomy on August 5 last year and dividing it into two federally-administered territories.
The Himalayan valley is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan. The two countries have gone to war thrice over it, and both rule parts of it. The portion of the disputed region ruled by India has been plagued by separatist violence since the late 1980s.
While in Muzaffarabad, the PM led a solidarity rally and addressed the assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the part of the disputed region governed by Pakistan.
“India thought that when it showed its full might, the Kashmiris would surrender,” the PM said in his address to a special session of the AJK Legislative Assembly. “I think Modi made a strategic blunder.”
“The biggest false assumption that Modi made was that he thought that by posting 800,000 soldiers in the valley, he could strike fear in the hearts of the Kashmiris and then India would be able to change occupied Kashmir’s demography,” the PM said. “India is stuck in a blind alley. If it retreats, Kashmir will be free. The question is how long can they maintain this [when] the world is watching.”

A minute of silence was observed at 10am to mark Youm-e-Istehsal, when traffic across the country came to a halt. A rally in the capital was attended by President Arif Alvi, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other top leaders.

Pakistan's President Arif Alvi, center, stands with parliamentarians to observe one minute of silence during a rally to show solidarity with Kashmiri people on the eve of the first anniversary of India's decision to revoke the disputed region's semi-autonomy, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (AP)

India’s August 5 move was accompanied by a communication blackout, widespread movement restrictions and mass detentions, including those of elected leaders.
In India, the anniversary of the day saw a heavy deployment of troops and barricades of barbed wire as India put Kashmir under the strictest lockdown in several months. Streets in the Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar were deserted, with armed paramilitary and police manning roadblocks to enforce a lockdown that was initially imposed on Tuesday to prevent any violent protests.
“If, over the past year, Kashmiris had appreciated the move [of repealing the region’s special status], India would not have to impose a lockdown,” President Alvi said, addressing a rally in the Pakistani capital on Wednesday.

A paramilitary soldier stands guard in front of closed shops during the one-year anniversary of the restive region being stripped of its autonomy in Srinagar on August 5, 2020. (AFP)

For almost a century, no outsider was allowed to buy land and property in Indian-controlled Kashmir but since August 5, under a new law, authorities have begun issuing “domicile certificates” to Indians and non-residents, entitling them to residency rights and government jobs, international media has reported. Many Kashmiris view the move as the beginning of settler colonialism aimed at engineering a demographic change in India’s only Muslim-majority region.

A woman walks along a street as security personnel stand guard during the one-year anniversary of the restive Kashmir region being stripped of its autonomy in Srinagar on August 5, 2020. (AFP)

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the Kashmir conflict in Kashmir the last three decades.
“Eight million Kashmiris have been made prisoners in their own homes,” PM Khan said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “Their communication with the outside world has been deliberately revoked to hide the scale of human rights violations being perpetrated against them ... Young men are being extrajudicially martyred in “fake encounters” and so-called “cordon and search” operations, almost on a daily basis, while the real Kashmiri political leadership remains incarcerated.”
“It is imperative that the international community steps in immediately and backs its words of condemnation with practical steps that will force India to reverse its present course against the Kashmiri people,” Khan said. “Pakistan will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its Kashmiri brethren until they realize their inalienable right to self-determination through free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations as per the relevant UNSC [United Nations Security Council] Resolutions.”
On Tuesday, Khan said 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.”
Meanwhile, India’s Modi on Wednesday launched the construction of a Hindu temple on a site that has been contested by Muslims for decades in a dispute that has sparked some of India’s most bloody communal violence.
The Supreme Court ruled last year that Hindus, who believe the site in Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, be allowed to build a temple there.
Modi, whose Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaigned for more than three decades for the temple, unveiled a plaque at the site in an elaborate ceremony to inaugurate construction.
“The whole country is thrilled, the wait of centuries is ending,” Modi said in a speech, after taking off a white mask that he wore as a novel coronavirus precaution.

Reacting to the development, Pakistan's foreign office strongly condemned the construction of Ram Mandir on the site where the historic mosque stood for around five centuries.
"The flawed judgment of the Indian Supreme Court paving the way for construction of the temple not only reflected the preponderance of faith over justice but also the growing majoritarianism in today’s India where minorities, particularly Muslims and their places of worship, are increasingly under attack," it said in an official statement. "A temple built on the site of a historic mosque will remain a blot on the face of the so-called Indian democracy for the times to come."
Hindus say the site was holy for them long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built the Babri Mosque there in 1528.
Hindu protesters demolished the mosque in 1992, triggering riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslim, were killed.

Pakistan’s media regulator instructs news channels not to promote political ‘hate mongers’

Updated 14 sec ago

Pakistan’s media regulator instructs news channels not to promote political ‘hate mongers’

  • PEMRA calls it ‘crucial’ to strike a balance between protecting freedom of expression and maintaining public order
  • In an apparent reference to ex-PM Khan, it asks media outlets to screen out people behind anti-state activities

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Wednesday instructed news channels to stop promoting “hate mongers” in an apparent reference to former prime minister Imran Khan and leaders of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party while mentioning the violent protests against government and military properties last month.

PEMRA mentioned Article 19 of Pakistan’s constitution that guarantees freedom of speech to all citizens at the beginning of its notification, though it argued it was crucial to strike a balance between protecting freedom of expression and maintaining public order.

The document mentioned the violent protests that broke out after Khan was arrested on the instruction of the country’s anti-graft body on corruption allegations on May 9 when hundreds of people carrying PTI flags torched government buildings, including a top army general’s official residence, and stormed sensitive military installations.

Without naming the ex-premier or any of his close aides, it said these “anti-state activities were orchestrated by the politically charged ... zealots of [a] political party.”

“It is indeed a fact such hate mongers, representing political outfits are abusing power against the Federation of Pakistan and state institutions by polluting innocent minds of public,” said the notification. “This is unequivocally a very horrific trend which needs to be condemned and those involved in promoting such activities must be boycotted on media for damaging peace and tranquility in the country.”

“In the wake of aforementioned scenario, all satellite TV channels licensees are directed to remain vigilant and not to promote any hate mongers, perpetrators and their facilitators inadvertently,” it added.

The notification asked media organizations to follow its code of conduct so that “coherence and national harmony could be promoted and hate mongers, rioters, their facilitators and perpetrators are completely screened out from media.”

It is pertinent to mention here that PEMRA suspended the licenses of various news channels in the past, though its decisions were reversed by the country’s judiciary.

It also took action against pro-PTI media outlets, most notably ARY News, by removing them from national airwaves in the wake of the alleged anti-government and anti-military broadcasts.

Pakistan’s pigeon racing enthusiasts indulge their passion in Karachi skies

Updated 39 min 1 sec ago

Pakistan’s pigeon racing enthusiasts indulge their passion in Karachi skies

  • People in Ranchore Line neighborhood of Karachi organize pigeon racing tournaments biennially in May and October
  • Origins of pigeon flying in Karachi can be traced back to New Delhi, where there are entire neighborhoods dedicated to the sport

KARACHI: Whether it’s summer or winter, after 4pm on most days, even when he is unwell, Muhammad Shafiq Chando can be found on the roof of the six-story residential building in which he lives in the Ranchore Line neighborhood of Karachi.

The unwavering commitment owes to his passion for his pet pigeons, which he trains and prepares for a unique race organized biennially in May and October in Ranchore, turning the whole neighborhood into a festival of colors and noise. Many in the area maintain flocks of hundreds of pigeons but with over six decades of experience in the sport, Chando is considered a maestro of pigeon racing.

“Even when I am sick, if people come [to check on me] after 4pm, my family tells them that they have come in vain because I have gone to the rooftop,” Chando told Arab News as he signaled to his pigeons to fly.

“My hobby has reached a level of obsession. I am a 72-year-old father of four children, a maternal grandfather, and also a paternal grandfather, but this is my true passion.”

For each type of pigeon flying tournament, the finish line is their home, which pigeons find using some combination of the sun, magnetic fields and an olfactory map of familiar smells. And what makes them return home is how kindly they are treated, how well they are fed and how clean their accommodations are.

Humans have been capitalizing on pigeons’ homing abilities for centuries. Genghis Khan used pigeons to relay commands across Asia and Eastern Europe. These days, the fastest fliers tend to be highly bred and pedigreed, like racehorses. In May 2012, a pigeon named Usain Bolt — for the Olympic sprinting champion from Jamaica — was sold to a Chinese businessman for about $430,000. In 2020, a female racing pigeon named New Kim sold for around $1.9 million at an auction in Belgium.

The origins of the sport in Karachi can be traced back to India, particularly New Delhi, where there are still entire neighborhoods dedicated to the sport.

Chando’s own involvement in pigeon flying started when he met Nawab Maqsood, a migrant from India, from whom he learnt about the types of racing and the many tricks of the trade.

There are three types of pigeon tournaments held in Pakistan, said Shamroz Chando, who shares his father’s enthusiasm for the sport.

“One is high pigeon flying, which we call Kabuli,” he said. “The second is low pigeon flying, and the third type is Golay Bazi [roller flying].”

In the high-flying tournament, each team can fly eight pigeons who must remain in the air from 7am until 5pm. A pigeon has to return home by 5pm or else is disqualified from the tournament. Similar to the low-flying pigeon contest, in the high-flying contest, mostly held in winter, a pigeon’s duration in the air is counted, not the height the bird is able to reach.

In the low-flying tournament, being held this month in Chando’s neighborhood with 100 participating teams, the pigeons are tied with bands or ribbons. Again, each team can fly eight pigeons, but the score of a team is determined by the flying hours of the seven pigeons who flew for the longest duration. The top ten teams are declared winners, with one team receiving a prize, often something like a small car. In the low-flying tournament, the pigeon has to remain in sight. If the bird goes missing for more than 45 minutes, it is considered out of the tournament.

In Golay Bazi, also called Tukri, 50 to 500 pigeons from two teams fly, and when both teams mix, which is called a battle, the team that captures the largest number of pigeons from the opponent’s team is declared the winner .

Tahmoor Chohan, a tournament participant, said people in Karachi had made modifications to the rules of the sport introduced by migrants from India.

“Unlike in India, where they allow the wings [of these birds] to grow naturally, in Karachi, the birds’ wings are first clipped, and then they are prepared for racing,” he explained.

And the hobby isn’t cheap, with Chando saying he spent Rs50,000 ($170) a month on keeping the birds. 

Chando’s 400 pigeons live on a diet of around 10 kilograms of millet daily, which he described as the “secret” to their success. They also eat food supplements and a special pudding called “chiknao,” which resembles halwa, or locally made pudding, and is costly to prepare. 

“We have to ensure that [the birds] are fit and active in every way,” he said. “So, for that, we provide them with a special food called chiknao … It contains almonds, desi ghee, spices, and dough. We feed them things that we ourselves cannot afford to eat.”

When asked if he ever felt the urge to give up on pigeon racing, Chando said his victories brought him “tremendous joy,” but the close bond with his pigeons led to “immense pain” if a bird was lost, especially during tournaments, making him sometimes wish to abandon the sport.

“The pain is intense,” he said, “because it takes three years to raise a squab.”

When asked if he believed it was humane to raise pigeons for racing tournaments, Chando rebuffed the question, saying: “We feed them the things that we ourselves cannot afford to eat.”

The pigeons, being pigeons, were unavailable for comment.

Pakistan's sole PVC resin manufacturer eyes 'big opportunity' to supply construction materials to NEOM

Updated 01 June 2023

Pakistan's sole PVC resin manufacturer eyes 'big opportunity' to supply construction materials to NEOM

  • Engro Polymer and Chemicals Limited says Pakistani manufacturers have already bid to supply PVC material to kingdom
  • Demand for PVC materials to keep booming for at least two years after first phase of construction in NEOM, says EPCL

KARACHI: Engro Polymer and Chemicals Limited (EPCL), Pakistan’s sole manufacturer of PVC resin material, said on Wednesday it is eyeing supply of the product for construction at Saudi Arabia’s planned smart city NEOM which can help it earn $300 million in exports. 

Neom, a $500 billion project, is a key element of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan as part of the kingdom’s mission to diversify away from its oil-dependent economy. The project is estimated to create 380,000 jobs and contribute SAR180 billion to Kingdom’s GDP. Saudi Arabia’s flagship business and tourism development project at the Red Sea coast is expected to see massive construction in the coming months and years. 

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin is the raw material used to manufacture various construction materials. These include PVC pipes, Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) windows and furniture, Stone Plastic Composite (SPC) flooring, and cable insulation. PVC is also used to manufacture medical equipment. 

“A big opportunity is knocking at the door in the form of Neom,” Muhammad Farhan, general manager downstream business and market development at EPCL, told Arab News. Farhan was speaking at a media briefing at the Bin Qasim industrial zone in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi. 

“Neom is a $500 billion project that requires massive construction materials including PVC downstream products that are available in Pakistan,” Farhan added. 

“In fact, some of the Pakistani manufacturers have already bid for the supply of material to the kingdom.” 

Farhan said Pakistani manufacturers of PVC products had received overwhelming response from Saudi participants of the Big 5, a mega construction show held in Dubai in December 2022. 

He said Saudis are exploring different options while manufacturers in the kingdom are looking for other manufacturers who can make products for them. 

The EPCL official said the demand for the basic construction material, including cables and pipes, will increase in the first phase of construction at Neom and will keep booming for at least two years. Simultaneously, demand for value-added products for construction on the exterior, including SPC and WPC, will increase.

To take greater advantage of Neom’s lucrative opportunities, Farhan said the government can play a vital role by engaging Saudi authorities and the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP). 

“We saw the interest of the Saudi participants in the value-added products – they want to import but they were also looking for investment in the kingdom for manufacturing and as a nation, we have access capacity and by utilizing that capacity we can avail the opportunity,” he added. 

Muhammad Idrees, EPCL’s chief commercial officer, said the country is already exporting PVC resin to Gulf countries UAE. Bahrain, Oman, and Egypt because of the freight advantage. 

“Engro has installed capacity of 300,000-ton resin production while the downstream industry has close to a million-ton capacity,” Idrees said.

“The downstream PVC industry can fully utilize its excess capacity and earn $300 million in terms of export revenue by standardizing and improving the quality of finished products.”

He said the $300 million PVC export potential could materialize within the next three to four years by the value-added industry through the export of surplus volumes and products. 

Idrees said EPCL is collaborating with TDAP to explore global markets to export value-added PVC downstream products. 

“In the last two years, the company exported surplus products worth $48 million to Turkiye and Middle Eastern markets, while import substitution of around $300 million contributed significantly toward solving Pakistan’s balance of payments situation,” he added. 

Mahmood Siddiqui, vice president of manufacturing at EPCL, said the company has invested over $188 million since 2015 in plant expansion and other upgrade projects for higher efficiency, reliability, and diversification of operations.

Pakistan’s per capita PVC consumption stands at 1.2 kg versus a global average of 6.1 kg. Per capita consumption growth, EPCL officials said, would be driven by rising per capita income, increasing urbanization, and robust domestic manufacturing in the coming years. 

However, they said the company was facing challenges of importing equipment for additional plants as commercial banks refuse to open Letters of Credit (LCs) as Pakistan faces a dollar crunch amid a worsening economic crisis. 

Amid decades-high inflation, Pakistan slashes petrol price by Rs8 per liter

Updated 31 May 2023

Amid decades-high inflation, Pakistan slashes petrol price by Rs8 per liter

  • After revision in prices, petrol will now be sold for Rs262 per liter, says finance minister
  • Pakistan slashes prices of high speed diesel, light diesel oil by Rs5 per liter respectively

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced the government’s decision to slash the price of petrol by Rs8 per liter on Wednesday, as Pakistan attempts to provide relief to the masses amid decades-high inflation. 

Inflation increased to a historic high of 36.4 percent in Pakistan in April 2023, the highest since 1964, after the South Asian country hiked fuel and energy prices to revive a $6.5 billion loan program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

To reduce the burden of inflation from the masses, Pakistan slashed the price of petrol by Rs 12 per liter two weeks ago. The South Asian country revises prices of petroleum products fortnightly. 

In a brief video message on Wednesday, the finance minister said that prices of petroleum products had not reduced drastically over the past 15 days nor had the value of the rupee significantly improved against the US dollar. 

“The maximum that we could reduce the petrol price [a fortnight ago] was Rs12 per liter,” Dar said. “Today, by reducing an additional Rs8 per liter, the price of petrol will reduce by Rs20 per liter in total. So, its price will reduce from Rs270 per liter to Rs262 from June 1,” he added. 

Dar also announced a reduction in the price of high speed diesel by Rs5 per liter and light diesel oil by Rs5 per liter. The price of kerosene oil will remain unchanged, he added.  

The finance minister said after the latest price reduction, high speed diesel, kerosene, and light diesel oil would cost Rs253, Rs164.07, and Rs147.68 per liter respectively.

Pakistan also slashed its oil imports by almost half last month, reducing it by 48 percent to 1.07 million tons during April 2023 as compared to 2.05 million tons during April 2022, a research report by Pakistan’s largest securities brokerage company, Arif Habib Limited, said. 

British Army chief calls on Pakistani counterpart, discusses regional security issues

Updated 31 May 2023

British Army chief calls on Pakistani counterpart, discusses regional security issues

  • British Army chief arrived in Pakistan this week to discuss military cooperation in response to climate-related disasters
  • General Nicholas Sanders lays floral wreath at Martyrs’ Monument, acknowledges Pakistan Army’s sacrifices against militancy

ISLAMABAD: British Army chief General Nicholas Yardley Monrad Sanders called on Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir on Wednesday to discuss regional security issues at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, the Pakistani military said. 

Sanders arrived in Pakistan on a five-day visit on Monday to discuss military cooperation in response to climate-related challenges, with the UK High Commission in Islamabad saying his visit is part of a long-standing military cooperation agreement between the two countries.

Pakistan and UK’s militaries cooperate frequently, with many Pakistani officers undertaking training at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the Advance Command and Staff Course, and the Royal College of Defense Studies. 

During his visit, Sanders laid a floral wreath at the Yadgar-e-Shuhuda (Marters’ Memorial) while a Pakistan Army contingent gave him a guard-of-honor. 

“During the meeting, regional security issues and matters of mutual interest were discussed,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said. 

“The visiting dignitary acknowledged the sacrifices and achievements of the Pakistan Army in the fight against terrorism and efforts for bringing peace and stability to the region,” the military’s media wing added. 

Earlier, Sanders also met General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Pakistan’s chairman joint chiefs of staff committee at the Joint Staff Headquarters in Rawalpindi, the ISPR said.