Quetta: Opposition holds third protest today asking for government to go

Leader of the newly-formed Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an opposition alliance of 11 parties, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (L) chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party and son of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz Sharif (2R), a Pakistani politician and the daughter of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, wave to supporters during the first public rally in the eastern city of Gujranwala on October 16, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 25 October 2020

Quetta: Opposition holds third protest today asking for government to go

  • Shrugging off security threats, the top leadership of Sharif’s party has reached the restive Balochistan capital
  • PM should ‘initiate action’ if he thinks something wrong was said in meetings between COAS and PML-N, says Talal Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is all set to address a multi-party opposition rally in Quetta city on Sunday through video link from London, amid a security alert issued by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA).
Sharif has been in London since November last year for medical treatment after securing an eight-week medical bail from a local court in a corruption case. Khan’s government has in recent weeks been seeking the extradition of Sharif from the UK.
“Nawaz Sharif will be addressing the rally and arrangements for it are being finalized,” Talal Chaudhry, a close aide to the former three-time elected premier and senior member of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, told Arab News on Saturday.
“We have reached Quetta along with Maryam Nawaz and other leaders for the rally,” Chaudhry said. “The enthusiasm and passion of the people is quite high here.”
The country’s 11-opposition party alliance-- the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) –  is holding nationwide protest rallies to oust the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, which they accuse of being a product of rigging in the 2018 general elections. The government denies the charge.
The anti-government movement kicked off with a rally in Gujranwala city on Oct. 16 where, in an unprecedented moment, Sharif named sitting army officers and accused the military establishment of toppling his government, pressuring the judiciary and orchestrating Imran Khan’s rise to power in 2018, the same year Sharif was convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to seven years in prison.
On Friday, in a television interview, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that recent meetings between the army chief and PML-N leaders were ‘a big mistake.’
But Chaudhry said the meetings had been held ‘in the name of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.’
“If he [Khan] thinks something wrong is done through the meetings, he should initiate action,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Balochistan government flagged Quetta’s security as a concern on Friday after the National Counter Terrorism Authority issued an alert, and urged opposition parties to delay their rally in the “wider interest of the public.”
“When this threat has been eradicated or when the planners and masterminds are arrested ... they (PDM) can hold a rally. This will be better as they will get more time to prepare,” Liaquat Shahwani, the Balochistan government spokesperson, said on Friday in a press conference.
But opposition parties remain adamant to go ahead as per schedule, dismissing the security threat as a political ploy to call off their campaign.
“The government will say this when we are engaged in political activity against it,” Chaudhry Manzoor, a senior Pakistan Peoples Party’s [PPP] leader, told Arab News.
Chaudhry said the burden of responsibility fell on the shoulders of the provincial government.
“It is the responsibility of the government to ensure fool-proof security [of the opposition gathering],” he said. “We can’t delay or suspend our anti-government movement just on the basis of the threats.”
Political analysts say the threat is real and should be taken seriously  in restive Balochistan province, where security forces and civilians routinely come under attack by militants.
“There is a potent context to the security alert [to the opposition rally] as our security forces have been under attack in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, trying to exploit our internal fault lines,” Imtiaz Gul, a political analyst, told Arab News.
“Whenever there is a meeting like this, it also serves as a fault line which can be easily attacked,” he warned.


‘Baby don’t go’: American singer Cher in Pakistan to bid farewell to Kaavan the elephant 

Updated 27 November 2020

‘Baby don’t go’: American singer Cher in Pakistan to bid farewell to Kaavan the elephant 

  • The 'world's loneliest elephant' has languished in the Islamabad zoo for 35 years and lost his partner in 2012
  • Cher and animal rights groups have campaigned for years for the elephant’s better treatment and freedom 

ISLAMABAD: American singing sensation Cher called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday during a visit to Pakistan to celebrate the departure of Kaavan, dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant,” who is all set to leave an Islamabad zoo for a sanctuary in Cambodia.

Cher and other rights groups have for years lobbied for the better treatment and release of Kaavan, who has languished in the Islamabad zoo for 35 years. He was diagnosed by veterinarians as both overweight and malnourished earlier this year, and also suffers behavioral issues. He will leave for Cambodia on Sunday.

“Appreciating her efforts in retiring Kavan to an elephant sanctuary, the Prime Minister thanked Cher for her campaign and role in this regard,” a government handout said. “The Prime Minister observed that it was indeed a happy moment for all of us that after giving joy and happiness to the people of Islamabad and Pakistan for about 35 years, Kavan will now be able to retire with other elephants in a specialized sanctuary in Cambodia.”

Khan also invited the singer to contribute towards the government's initiative to expand its tourism and environmental programs, “to which she kindly agreed.”

“On this occasion, Cher applauded the Prime Minister for his government's key initiatives for ensuring a cleaner and greener Pakistan,” the statement added. “She also offered her support for furthering the green initiatives through her organization 'Free the Wild' and thanked the Prime Minister.”

Cher took up Kaavan’s cause and has been a loud voice advocating for his resettlement. Four Paws International, a Vienna-based animal welfare group, has also led the charge to save Kaavan and provided the medical treatment needed before he can travel. The battle for his relocation began in 2016.

Even after he’s in Cambodia, Kaavan will require years of physical and even psychological assistance, Four Paws' representatives have said.

Because of the abysmal living conditions blamed on systemic negligence, Pakistan’s high court in May ordered the closure of Marghazar Zoo in the capital of Islamabad, where Kaavan has lived for much of his life. A medical examination in September showed Kaavan’s nails were cracked and overgrown — the result of years of living in an improper enclosure with flooring that damaged his feet.

The elephant has also developed stereotypical behavior, shaking his head back and forth for hours, which the medical team of wildlife veterinarians and experts blamed on his utter boredom.

For the past three months, a Four Paws team including veterinarian Dr. Amil Khalil and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board has been readying Kaavan to leave. Members of the welfare group will also accompany him to the sanctuary.