'This is struggle for people’s rights,' Maryam Nawaz says ahead of opposition protest

Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and leader of an opposition party, addresses supporters while leaving her home to attend a rally in Lahore on Oct. 16, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 16 October 2020

'This is struggle for people’s rights,' Maryam Nawaz says ahead of opposition protest

  • Opposition parties recently formed the Pakistan Democratic Movement to build pressure on the government to call early elections
  • First public rally in Gujranwala today, followed by gatherings later this month in Karachi and Quetta

ISLAMABAD: The vice president of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party, Maryam Nawaz, called planned anti-government protests a ‘struggle’ for people’s rights, as she and the chairman of a newly formed opposition alliance left the city of Lahore for Gujranwala on Friday to lead street protests aimed at putting pressure on the government to call early elections.
“This is not just struggle of the people, but also for your rights,” Nawaz told supporters before departing for Gujranwala. "We are out on the streets for the rights of 220 million people.”
“Police and administration should not stand in our way,” she added.
Opposition parties recently formed an alliance — the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — which will address public gatherings across the country in the next several weeks. The first rally will be held in the city of Gujranwala today, followed by rallied in Karachi on October 18 and Quetta on October 25.
The government has formally announced that the opposition alliance can hold its gatherings at specifically designated spots. Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said the government had allowed the rallies as “protest is the right of every political party.”
PM Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf ruling party came to power in August 2018 after defeating all major opposition parties. The opposition alliance has, however, said the party won a rigged election, which the government denies.
Religious party leader and PDM chairman Maulana Fazlur Rahman told supporters and media ahead of the Gujranwala rally: "We all are committed and united to restore the sanctity of the vote. We don't have personal enmity with anyone, but want to ensure that Pakistan belongs to the people of Pakistan.”
“We are out to remove an unelected parliament,” he said, calling for early general elections.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, ex-premier and senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who heads the PMLN, would address the gathering through a video link.
Convicted in 2018 in corruption cases, Sharif is currently in London on medical bail, though local courts have issued his arrest warrants and directed the government to bring him back to face corruption cases.
The opposition alliance was given permission to hold the public gathering after the Gujranwala district administration and the alliance reached a 28-point agreement, which includes following strict coronavirus standard operating procedures at the venue. Protest leaders cannot make speeches at any place other than inside Jinnah Stadium. In case of the violation of the agreement, the district administration has said it will take appropriate action, including by filing police cases against protest leaders.
Last major anti-government protests were held in Pakistan in August 2014 by current prime minister Imran Khan, a hero cricket player turned politician, and firebrand cleric Tahir ul-Qadri who camped on the streets of Islamabad for over three months trying to bring down the then government of PM Nawaz Sharif.
Those protests descended into deadly chaos on one night, with demonstrators clashing with police in a central area near many government buildings and embassies. Three people were killed.
Sharif, who was toppled by the army in a 1999 coup but staged a comeback with a big election win in May 2013, had refused to quit while protest leaders rejected his offers of talks, creating a dangerous deadlock.
Khan called off the protests in December after gunmen attacked a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing 134 students.


77 people killed in monsoon rains in Pakistan since June 14 — climate minister

Updated 6 sec ago

77 people killed in monsoon rains in Pakistan since June 14 — climate minister

  • Half the deaths in Balochistan province where 39 people have died
  • In 2010, worst floods in memory affected 20 million people in Pakistan 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani minister for climate change Sherry Rehman said on Wednesday that 77 people had died since June 14 as monsoon rains wreaked havoc in the country, with almost half the deaths taking place in the impoverished southwestern province of Balochistan.

The Pakistan Metrological office had predicted heavy rainfall and thunderstorms from June 30 to July 5 and also issued a weather warning for urban floods in some regions.

“77 people have died since June 14 in monsoon rains,” Rehman said at a press conference, adding that the monsoon rain pattern was moving from the north of the country to the southern provinces of Balochistan and Sindh.

“Most of deaths were in Balochistan till morning [Wednesday]. We got the figure of 39 deaths in the province,” she said, adding that children and women were among those who had lost their lives. Media reported that at least 20 of the Balochistan deaths had occurred in the last 24 hours of rain.

Rehman said Pakistan had received “above normal” levels of rains during June and July.

The district administration of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, established a flood emergency control room to monitor and address emergencies in the city and its adjacent areas.

“Rescue & relief operation of @PDMABalochistan & Quetta district administration is underway, food items & other necessities have been distributed among rain affected families in Bakra Mandi Western By Pass & other areas,” assistant commissioner in the Sariyab area of Quetta said.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) urged provincial authorities to take preventive measures to avoid loss of life and damage to property.

The rains have also affected telecommunication and power supply in some parts of the country.

In 2010, the worst floods in memory affected 20 million people in Pakistan, with damage to infrastructure running into billions of dollars and huge swaths of crops destroyed as one fifth of the country was inundated.


Pakistan sets up parliamentary committee to oversee talks with local Taliban, ensure process constitutional

Updated 06 July 2022

Pakistan sets up parliamentary committee to oversee talks with local Taliban, ensure process constitutional

  • PM Shehbaz Sharif chairs in-camera meeting attended by over 100 lawmakers
  • Use of force sole prerogative of state, says parliamentary committee

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday set up a parliamentary committee to oversee talks with the local Taliban and to ensure the process does not exceed the limits of the constitution, as Islamabad looks to end years of conflict with militants through negotiations. 

Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) on Tuesday gave its formal approval to the government to conduct peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). 

The TTP is a separate group from the Afghan Taliban but shares common roots with them. The militant outfit has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan since 2007, seeking to impose its own brand of Islamic law via force. 

However, on June 4, the TTP extended a cease-fire with the government for an indefinite period, after two days of talks with a delegation of Pakistani tribal elders that were facilitated by the Afghan Taliban. 

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired an in-camera meeting in Islamabad attended by over 100 lawmakers and officials to deliberate on peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.  

“The Parliamentary Committee on National Security formally approved the process of negotiations and approved the formation of a ‘Parliamentary Oversight Committee’ which would be responsible for overseeing the process within the constitutional limits,” an official statement said. 

“The session also endorses the importance of the ‘National Grand Reconciliation Dialogue’ and said the [Parliamentary Committee on National Security] meeting was the first step in that direction,” the statement added. 

It added that with the support of the Afghan government and led by Pakistan’s civilian and military officials, the government is negotiating with the outlawed TTP within the constitution’s framework to ensure peace in the country and the region. 

“The meeting stated that the final outcome would be implemented after the completion of the procedure within the ambit of the Constitution of Pakistan and the approval of the Government of Pakistan,” the statement said. 

Participants of the meeting reiterated that Pakistan has made remarkable achievements against terrorism and extremism which have been recognized globally. 

 “The meeting reiterated that under the Constitution of Pakistan, the use of force is the sole prerogative of the state,” the statement said. 

Pakistan military leadership held an on talks with the TTP and on national security issues. 

 Last month, Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership after a meeting in Islamabad agreed that talks with the Pakistani Taliban were taking place within the ambit of the constitution and any decision on negotiations with the outlawed group would be taken with parliament’s approval.

The TTP is asking Pakistan to scrap a 2018 law that did away with the semi-independent status of the former tribal regions that dates back to British colonial rule. The law aimed to grant equal rights to millions of residents in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) once they were incorporated into Pakistan’s authority as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The Pakistani Taliban also want the country’s troops to pull out of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, release all TTP fighters in government custody and revoke all cases against them. 


Pakistani mountaineers missing overnight on Nanga Parbat spotted descending to camp

Updated 06 July 2022

Pakistani mountaineers missing overnight on Nanga Parbat spotted descending to camp

  • 20-year-old Shehroze Kashif became youngest person ever to summit Nanga Parbat this week
  • Separately, Pakistani Imran Shamshali from Hunza was killed during an expedition on Gasherbrum

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani mountaineers Shehroze Kashif and Fazal Ali, who were reported missing overnight on Pakistan’s Nanga Parbat, were spotted descending to a camp on the mountain on Wednesday, according to Kashif’s social media accounts.  

Kashif, 20, who hails from Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, became the youngest Pakistani in May 2021 to scale Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Earlier this month, he became the youngest person to summit Mount Kanchenjunga in Nepal, and on Tuesday, yesterday, the youngest person to summit Nanga Parbat. 

Ali, who hails from Shimshal of Hunza district of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan’s north, was also reported missing with Kashif after getting stuck in a blizzard, according to the Alpine Club of Pakistan. 

“Shehroze Kashif and Fazal Ali are seen descending from Camp 4 to Camp 3 on Nanga Parbat 8,126m,” Kashif’s Twitter account said, adding that the two had spent the night in the open to wait for the weather to clear before beginning their descent. 

“The duo is showing great resilience and willpower to manage things themselves in death zone and now approaching Camp 3 soon,” read the post. 

In a video statement on Tuesday, Kashif’s father appealed to Pakistan’s army chief to launch a rescue operation to retrieve his son, saying Nepalese climbers were ready to launch an operation if they were provided helicopters.  

“I request the army chief: what are we waiting for? What are we waiting for,” he asked, pointing out that his son had paid tribute to the soldiers of the Pakistan Army after summiting the world’s third-highest mountain peak, Kangchenjunga, in Nepal. 

“He has achieved a lot, he has made Pakistan proud. Please launch a [rescue] operation.” 

Separately, the Alpine Club of Pakistan confirmed that Imran Shamshali, a Pakistani mountaineer from Hunza, was killed during an expedition on the Gasherbrum, a remote group of peaks in Pakistan’s northeast area, while another climber, Muhammad Sharif, had been missing since Tuesday.


Pakistan police arrest TV journalist on outskirts of capital

Updated 06 July 2022

Pakistan police arrest TV journalist on outskirts of capital

  • Arrest comes weeks after a court in Islamabad ordered police not to arrest him
  • TV anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan known for publicly supporting former PM Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD: A prominent Pakistani TV anchorperson known for publicly supporting former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested Tuesday on the outskirts of the capital, his colleagues said.

It was unclear on what charges police arrested Imran Riaz Khan, who is not related to the ex-premier.

The arrest of the TV journalist comes weeks after a court in Islamabad ordered police not to arrest him and several other journalists after complaints were lodged accusing them of inciting hatred against the military.

There was no immediate comment from the government.

Khan, the former premier, took to Twitter to condemn the arrest of the anchorperson.

Khan was ousted as prime minister through a no-confidence vote in the parliament in April. He contends his removal was part of a US plot, a charge Washington denies. 


Pakistan, GCC expected to hold technical talks for free trade agreement by July-end — official

Updated 06 July 2022

Pakistan, GCC expected to hold technical talks for free trade agreement by July-end — official

  • Last year, Pakistani and GCC officials resumed talks on a delayed FTA after a gap of almost 12 years
  • The South Asian country currently has free trade agreements with China, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka

KARACHI: Pakistan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are expected to hold the second round of technical-level talks for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the last week of July, a senior Pakistani diplomat said, with local traders saying a deal would help boost exports to the six-country bloc comprising the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. 

Last year, Pakistani and GCC officials resumed talks on a delayed FTA after a gap of almost 12 years. The South Asian country currently has free trade agreements with China, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka.

“First technical round is completed, tariff lines lists have been shared between Pakistan and GCC, and the private sector and FBR [Federal Board of Revenue] are analyzing these tariff lists,” Azhar Ali Dahar, Minister Trade and Investment at the Embassy of Pakistan in Riyadh, told Arab News on Tuesday.

“GCC has asked for a second technical meeting and the commerce ministry is waiting for a response from private sector. It is expected that in the last week of July this second meeting may take place.”

Pakistani industrialists and traders said the FTA was very important for the country to increase multilateral trade volumes, and the apex body of the private sector, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), was “fully involved” in pushing forward the process.

“Our Research and Development is working on it and we want to take it forward in a better way that is good for Pakistan,” FPCCI president Irfan Iqbal Sheikh told Arab News on Saturday. 

“FTA is very important if you need to enhance your trade, but we have to keep in view all aspects, including economic value and our economic conditions, before signing the agreement so that we [Pakistan] could benefit.” 

The FPCCI president said the FTA was important to tap markets other than the traditional EU, United States and United Kingdom, where Pakistan exports around 80 percent of its goods. 

“We have not yet tapped the other markets.. and we want to tap the other markets.. we want to work with GCC,” Sheikh added. “New markets and products that would increase Pakistan’s exports … that is what we need.”

The FTA with the GCC has remained in the cold storage since the signing of the Framework Agreement (FA) on August 26, 2004 in Islamabad. Only two rounds were held between 2006 and 2008. 

The first round of negations took place in Riyadh in March 2006 where both sides agreed to jointly declare the establishment of a Trade Negotiating Team (TNT). The parties also agreed to concessions in services under the World Trade Organization’s framework. 

The second round of negotiations was also held in Riyadh from September 7-8, 2008, where both sides agreed to a broader outline in the areas of Market Access in Goods & Services, Rules of Origin and some General Provisions, according to the Dahar in Riyadh.

“The FTA with GCC should have been signed much earlier because these are major economies, especially the UAE is our major trading partner, as our high-end imports are mostly coming from UAE,” Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, a joint executive director at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), told Arab News.

“We have been engaged with GCC countries since 2008 and still after a lapse of around 15 years this [FTA] has not materialized … we discuss with them security and other issues but FTA remains off the agenda.

“Now it must be on top of the agenda and the joint working group needs to set the deadline to finalize the FTA as we did in case of FTA with China,” he added. “Our exports, mainly services, are being processed from UAE where companies, especially the IT companies, have set up backend offices. We have a big advantage with the FTA so this needs to be taken very seriously.”

Pakistani investors in GCC countries have also called on their home government to aggressively pursue GCC authorities for the FTA.

“Pakistan has very special relations with GCC countries and they have been supportive. The FTA will largely benefit Pakistani traders through ease of tariff and non-tariffs measures,” Muhammad Iqbal Dawood, a director at the Pakistan Business Council Dubai, told Arab News via phone from Dubai. 

“Currently, India is going on the top of the countries signing FTAs ... We need to aggressively move on and sign these kinds of agreements.” 

Pakistani experts said the country had a limited list of products to offer the GCC bloc but the government should demand zero or reduced import duties on certain goods from Pakistan.

“We should demand zero or reduced customs duty from GCC for textile and garments, on processed food, rice, leather, sports and surgical goods,” SDPI’s Ahmed said. “In the services sector, we want incorporation fee waiver for example for our IT companies that set up back-end offices in Dubai, Doha, and Bahrain.”

“In return we should be very open about what we can offer them, we would not be in a position to restrict flow of goods coming from there as recently we have done to restrict imports,” he added, referring to recent ban on the import of luxury items to save foreign reserves. “We should be prepared that this would be reciprocal.”