Bilawal says Sindh police forced to arrest ex-PM's son-in-law as army orders probe

Mohammad Safdar, center, son-in-law of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, leaves after a court granted him bail, in Karachi on Oct. 19, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 29 March 2021

Bilawal says Sindh police forced to arrest ex-PM's son-in-law as army orders probe

  • Pakistan’s army ordered a probe into the alleged abduction of the provincial police chief following an outcry over the incident
  • Several top officials of Sindh police submit leave applications to record their protest against the alleged abduction of their chief

KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on Tuesday the inspector general (IG) of police in the Sindh province, Mushtaq Ahmed Mehar, had been abducted on Monday by paramilitary troops, who forced him to sign an order to arrest an opposition leader.
Opposition leader Muhammad Safdar, a member of the Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) party, was arrested on Monday following a protest at the tomb of the country’s founder in Karachi, capital of the southern province of Sindh that the PPP rules. He is the son-in-law of Nawaz Sharif, three time prime minister of Pakistan and the head of the PMLN, which is part of a recently formed opposition alliance that is leading street protests against the central government. 
On Tuesday night, Pakistan’s army ordered a probe into the alleged abduction of the provincial police chief following an outcry over the incident.
“Who besieged the IG’s house at 2am,” the PPP chairman asked reporters at a press conference. “Who were the two people who entered his residence and where was he taken at 4am?”
Several top officials of Sindh police submitted leave applications to the provincial administration to protest the alleged abduction of their chief, saying they could not fulfill their duties in such a “stressful situation” and needed to take some time off to come out of the “state of shock.”
“The chief minister [Murad Ali Shah] has announced an investigation,” said the PPP chairman. “The officers are resigning and proceeding on leave one by one. This is matter of their dignity.”
Referring to Safdar’s arrest, he said: “It was shameful. No matter how much I condemn it, it will still be insufficient. I am ashamed. I am not able to show my face to anyone after what has happened in my province.”
“I demand of the [Director General Inter-Services Intelligence] General Faiz Hameed and [Chief of Army Staff] General Qamar Javed Bajwa to investigate their institutions to see how they are working in this province. Whoever has given you this advice, this is wrong and will damage the dignity of your institutions,” he added.
Safdar’s wife and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Vice President Maryam Sharif has said in a press talk that the Sindh police chief was picked up by Rangers, a paramilitary force, and “taken to the sector commander’s office” where he was forced to issue arrest orders for Safdar. 
“Taking notice of the Karachi incident, the COAS has directed Commander Karachi Corps to immediately inquire into the circumstances to determine the facts and report back as soon as possible,” the army’s media wing said in a statement on Tuesday night. 
It was later announced that the army chief also telephoned the PPP chairman to discuss the situation with him.  Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has also formed a ministerial committee to probe the matter. 


Health chief of Pakistan’s most densely populated province denies running out of COVID-19 vaccines

Updated 26 min 34 sec ago

Health chief of Pakistan’s most densely populated province denies running out of COVID-19 vaccines

  • Dr. Yasmin Rashid says about 1.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been recently supplied to districts across the province
  • Health authorities in Punjab will start administering AstraZeneca shots to people less than 40 years of age who want to travel abroad from June 16

LAHORE: Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid on Tuesday denied media reports that the country’s most densely populated province was running short of COVID-19 vaccines and had taken a decision to halt its immunization campaign for two days.
“There is no vaccination shortage throughout the province,” she said after holding a meeting with senior provincial health officials. “About 1.6 million shots were recently supplied to various districts, and the deputy commissioner of Lahore has 25,000 doses with him.”
Rashid informed the provincial health authorities were inoculating over 240,000 people across the province on a daily basis.
She added the vaccination drive at district headquarter hospitals was continuing 24/7.
The provincial health minister said all deputy commissioners were directed to increase the momentum of the immunization campaign in their respective areas and do their best to meet the prescribed targets.
“People below the age of 40 who plan to travel abroad can receive AstraZeneca vaccine on the instruction of NCOC [National Command and Operation Center] at Expo Center Lahore from June 16,” Rashid continued. “All deputy commissioners in other districts have been asked to follow suit.”
She added that the provincial administration was also in possession of 13,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine which would be administered to people suffering from serious ailments on a priority basis.
Earlier in the day, Hammad Raza, a Punjab Health Department spokesperson, told Arab News there was no report of vaccination shortage in the province, adding that Punjab was in “surplus” when it came to COVID-19 jabs.
Asked about long queues outside some of the vaccination centers, he said it was only happening at facilities offering AstraZeneca vaccine.
“People who want to travel abroad usually seek AstraZeneca shots,” Raza explained. “The provincial administration was in the process of devising a proper protocol for that. Things should get better now since we have received guidelines from the federation today and no one will have to wait to get these shots in the coming days.”


No ‘disagreement,’ IMF ready to work with Pakistan’s restructuring roadmap – finance minister 

Updated 15 June 2021

No ‘disagreement,’ IMF ready to work with Pakistan’s restructuring roadmap – finance minister 

  • Says Pakistan hopes to convince IMF of government plan to reform power sector and broaden tax net 
  • IMF to monitors “steps, innovations” introduced by Pakistan for 2-3 months and reassess, Tarin says 

ISLAMABAD: Just days after Pakistan presented its federal budget for the next fiscal year, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin denied there was any “disagreement” with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on restructuring targets and austerity measures, adding that a $6 billion loan program from the fund would continue. 

Train on Friday presented what has been called a “pro-growth” and “people-friendly” fiscal budget for 2021-22, with a total outlay of Rs8.4 trillion.

Pakistan is currently in talks with the IMF as part of the sixth review of a 39-month bailout program, which began in 2019. The revenue target has been a key topic and Tarin has said the IMF and the government debated ways to achieve the target, which is 23 percent higher than the current year’s expected collection.

The budget document said one of the main objectives was to pursue the IMF program, even as Pakistan has said it is looking for the easing of some restructuring targets.

“We don’t have a disagreement with the IMF, we want to remain in the IMF program and our destiny is the same,” Tarin said in an interview with a private Pakistani news channel on Monday night. 

The finance minister said the IMF wanted Pakistan to reform its power sector, increase revenue base, eliminate all exemption and increase taxes on personal incomes by Rs150 billion.

“We disagree on this and told them we will broaden [tax base], will use technology and include more taxpayers [in the tax net],” Train said, adding that Pakistan had informed the IMF that it wanted “systematic and sustainable growth” by introducing innovation and technology. 

“[IMF] said they will continue to talk on this with [Pakistan], and the steps, innovations that you [Pakistan] are introducing will be monitored for next two, three months and [IMF will] take it from there,” the finance minister said, adding: “I assure you that it is our aim and the IMF also desires that we will not come out from [the IMF] program. We will come up with some understanding.”

Train said he hoped Pakistan would be able to convince the IMF of the government’s roadmap to reform the power sector and broaden the tax net.
 


Twin orphaned bear cubs given shelter near India-Pakistan border   

Updated 15 June 2021

Twin orphaned bear cubs given shelter near India-Pakistan border   

  • Sharda and Narda were discovered last year by villagers, alone and unable to open their eyes 
  •   Wildlife has also been badly afflicted in one of the world’s most militarized regions

DAWARIAN, Pakistan: Years of hostilities and an electric fence along a de facto border between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan have taken a toll not just on humans. Wildlife has also been badly afflicted in one of the world’s most militarized regions.
The latest victims of the decades-old conflict are two orphaned Asiatic bear cubs found on the Pakistan side of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Students and residents play with a pair of Asian black bears, rescued a year ago near the Line of Control (LoC), at the Wildlife and Fisheries department in a Dawarian village in Neelum Valley, Pakistan-administrated Kashmir, June 12, 2021. (REUTERS)

Sharda and Narda were discovered last year by villagers at an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,270 m), alone, and unable to open their eyes, said Muhammad Ashraf, an official with the wildlife and fisheries department in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
“Our guards and volunteers reconnoitred the area for about two months but did not find any trace of the she-bear on our side of the divide,” Ashraf said.
The mother bear may have been killed on the Indian side of the border by a land mine or a shell, he said, with her cubs crawling across to be spotted by the villagers.

A wildlife watcher takes care of one of two Asian black bears, rescued a year ago near the Line of Control (LoC), at the Wildlife and Fisheries department in a Dawarian village in Neelum Valley, Pakistan-administrated Kashmir, June 12, 2021. (REUTERS)

The duo was nursed with bottled milk for two months, then raised on fruit and veggies and gradually introduced to other foods including wheat and maize.
Now they keep busy climbing mulberry and walnut trees on the compound where they are kept, or sometimes onto a tin-roof shelter that houses a hatchery for rainbow trout, drawing a daily audience of both children and adults.
A PICTURESQUE WAR ZONE
This compound is just outside the village of Dawarian, some 66 miles (106 km) northeast of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir. The area’s fast-flowing rivers and streams, waterfalls, glacial lakes and forests make it popular with tourists.

Mohammad Ashraf, assistant game warden, feeds a pair of Asian black bears, rescued a year ago near the Line of Control (LoC), at the Wildlife and Fisheries department in a Dawarian village in Neelum Valley, Pakistan-administrated Kashmir, June 12, 2021. (REUTERS)

Kashmir has been a flashpoint since India and Pakistan gained independence from British rule in 1947, and they have fought two wars over the region. Both countries control parts of Kashmir and claim it in full.
Since 2004 there has been a 12-foot high fence cutting through the area to mark the border. India built the fence and says it is meant to keep militants from crossing.
But it has also made it nearly impossible for wildlife to move freely in their natural habitat.

Wildlife watchers, feed one of two Asian black bears, rescued a year ago near the Line of Control (LoC), at the Wildlife and Fisheries department in a Dawarian village in Neelum Valley, Pakistan-administrated Kashmir, June 12, 2021. (REUTERS)

“The bear cubs are just one example,” said Sardar Javaid Ayub, head of the wildlife and fisheries department on the Pakistan side.
“They were born across the divide and when their mom got killed close to the fence they crossed over through some burrow or eroded portion of land (beneath the fence).”
Ashraf recalls that a few years back department staff spotted a dead black bear in a ravine far from the fence.
One leg had apparently been blown off by a land mine and it had fallen into the ravine and died.
“This is what ... would be happening with many wild animals but we rarely come to know about it,” Asraf said. 


Jranda Kali in Pakistan’s northwest is last village where ancient watermills survive 

Updated 15 June 2021

Jranda Kali in Pakistan’s northwest is last village where ancient watermills survive 

  • By early 20th century, availability of cheap electrical energy made watermills obsolete in developed countries
  • Jranda Kali still has more than a dozen watermills that grind corn, wheat and other grains into flour

PESHAWAR: Traditional watermills, or low-cost grain grinding mills that use hydropower, have disappeared across Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where they were once widely used, researchers and officials have said, with Jranda Kali being the last hamlet in the region where the technology is still operational. 

By the early 20th century, the availability of cheap electrical energy made the watermill obsolete in developed countries but their use has persisted in rural communities around the world, including in Pakistan. In Jranda Kali, a dusty village on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar, more than a dozen traditional watermills, locally known as jrandas, are still used to grind corn, wheat and other grains into flour. 

Wheat grains are being ground at a traditional watermill in Jranda Kali, on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, on June 11, 2021. (AN Photo)

Irfan Uddin, a senior research fellow at the FATA Research Center, told Arab News though some watermills survived and were in use in the country’s northern mountainous areas such as Gilgit and Chitral, they were “dying at an accelerated phase” in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where they could only be found now in Jranda Kali.

“This trend is vanishing because of water shortages and the advent of new technology,” the scholar said. “The government needs to facilitate operators and owners of Jranda Kali’s watermills, which are environment-friendly and depict our old traditions.”

Faisal Amin Gandapur, a provincial minister whose portfolio is yet to be notified, called for the need to “save and promote” the watermills at a time when the entire world was turning toward nature-based, clean agricultural solutions. 

“Such technology should be promoted with emphasis on improving their productivity,” Gandapur said. “I think with modern technology, the windmills’ performance can be enhanced and they can become job creators too.”

Jranda operator Sayed Zaffar Ali Shah said he had inherited the technology from his forefathers, adding that people of the region still preferred watermill ground grains over those produced by more advanced machinery. The watermills could also be run 24 hours a day without the requirement of electricity or other fuels, and were less costly for operators. 

A boy collects grounded flour at a traditional watermill in Jranda Kali, on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, on June 11, 2021. (AN Photo)

“This is the basic reason that keeps jranda surviving, otherwise they would have vanished long before due to the advent of electricity-powered mills,” Shah, whose family owns 15 watermills, said. Three of his mills had ceased to function, he said, “due to decreasing flow of water.”

Shaukat Afridi, a geologist in Peshawar, said falling groundwater levels due to the large-scale pumping of groundwater by tube-wells, meant less and less water for the mills. 

“One reason for water scarcity is that the water table level is influenced by human extraction of groundwater, using tube wells, and then pumping out water for drinking purpose and irrigation of farmland,” the geologist said. “The water table continues to fall, leaving a negative impact on flow of water. This is one of the reasons for the closure of our traditional watermills.”


Ten killed, 21 injured as rain, thunderstorms lash northwest Pakistan

Updated 15 June 2021

Ten killed, 21 injured as rain, thunderstorms lash northwest Pakistan

  • Pakistan Met Department says Karachi and other parts of Sindh province likely to get more than usual rainfall this monsoon season
  • Every year, many cities in Pakistan struggle to cope with annual monsoon deluge, drawing criticism about poor planning

ISLAMABAD: The Provincial Disaster Management Authority in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said on Tuesday 10 people had been killed and at least 21 were injured in rains and strong winds that lashed the region since June 11. 
The Pakistan Meteorological Department has also said the port city of Karachi and other parts of the southern Sindh province are likely to receive more than usual rainfall this monsoon season, with the onset of the rainy season expected between June 27 and 30.
“PDMA releases damage reports from rains, strong winds and thunderstorms in last 24 hours,” the authority said on its Twitter page. “Rains, strong winds kill four, injure 12, partially damage 3 houses.” 

The rest of the deaths had occurred in different incidents in the province since June 11, the authority’s latest report showed. 
The director general of the authority has directed the district administration “to expedite the relief operations.”
Every year, many cities in Pakistan struggle to cope with the annual monsoon deluge, drawing criticism about poor planning. The monsoon season runs from July through September.
Last year, record-breaking heavy rain in Karachi in August killed over 100 people and disrupted the lives of many of the city’s more than 15 million residents as water flooded main roads and homes.
The city received its largest-ever-recorded rainfall total in a single day on August 24, when 230 mm (9 inches) of rain fall in just 12 hours, according to the Pakistan Meteorology Department.
Over the month, Karachi received 484 mm (19 inches) of rain, the highest total in at least 90 years.
After the havoc last year — with main roads submerged, sewage spewing from manholes and into homes, and power cuts lasting for hours — Prime Minister Imran Khan tasked the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) with sorting out the city’s drains.
The winds that drive Pakistan’s annual monsoon, which arrives from the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, appear to be altering as a result of climate change, which could push more rainfall to Karachi — and less to key agricultural regions, climate scientists have said.