Religious protesters rally in Islamabad asking for Pakistan to break France ties

Security vehicles park near shipping containers placed by authorities on a highway to stop supporters of the 'Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, a religious political party, entering into the capital during an anti-France rally in Islamabad on Nov. 16, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 16 November 2020

Religious protesters rally in Islamabad asking for Pakistan to break France ties

  • Protesters are led by Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan against the printing of cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
  • Police fired teargas on stone-pelting protesters on Sunday, dozens of police men and protesters injured

ISLAMABAD: Protesters led by religious party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) thronged to Islamabad on Sunday and continued their sit-in on Monday, calling for the Pakistan government to end diplomatic ties with France against the printing of images depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Muslims around the world have protested against France and President Emmanuel Macron, who has vowed to stand firm against what he has described as attacks on French values and freedom of expression by radicals.
Pakistani media reported that police fired teargas on Sunday on stone-pelting protesters who had gathered on the call of TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Dozens of police men and protesters were injured, Dawn newspaper said. 
Deputy Commissioner Islamabad, Hamza Shafqat, said on Monday authorities were trying their ‘best’ to clear the roads.
“Apologies for inconvenience,” he said on Twitter. “We are trying our best to clear the route.”

The protesters, who number in the thousands, have sent up camp at the Faizabad Interchange, which connects major highways between the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Rawalpindi’s 24 entry points have been sealed with shipping containers and as many as 16 entry points into Islamabad also blocked. There was no mobile phone service in Rawalpindi and Islamabad since late Saturday night and all through the day on Sunday. 
The TLP has said it will continue its protests until Islamabad announced cutting all diplomatic and economic ties with Paris.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office has already condemned “in the strongest manner the systematic resurgence of blasphemous acts of republication of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and desecration of the Holy Qur’an by certain irresponsible elements in some developed countries.”
Last month, Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris and the foreign office summoned French Ambassador Marc Baréty to express anger over the cartoons. 
French prescient Macron has paid tribute to a French history teacher who was beheaded by an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a class on freedom of speech.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has also taken aim at Macron, saying he had attacked Islam by encouraging the display of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
In an open letter last month, Khan urged leaders of Muslim-majority countries to tackle the rising wave of Islamophobia by educating people around the world about Muslim religious sensitivities.
“I believe the leaders in these countries often act out of lack of understanding of the intrinsically deep passion, love and devotion Muslims all over the world have for their Prophet PBUH and their divine book, the Holy Qur’an,” he wrote.


Pakistan climbing season reaches new heights as 1,400 foreign mountaineers arrive

Updated 6 sec ago

Pakistan climbing season reaches new heights as 1,400 foreign mountaineers arrive

  • The country is home to five of the world’s 14 mountains higher than 8,000 meters
  • 57 expeditions planned for 23 Pakistan peaks this season, with 370 climbers climbing K2

SKARDU: Pakistan is enjoying a bumper climbing season with around 1,400 foreign mountaineers bidding to scale its lofty peaks — including hundreds on the 8,611-meter (28,251-feet) K2, the world’s second-highest.

The country is home to five of the world’s 14 mountains higher than 8,000 meters, and climbing them all is considered the ultimate achievement of any mountaineer.
“It is a record number,” Raja Nasir Ali Khan, tourism minister of Gilgit-Baltistan region, told AFP about the number of foreign climbers this year.
Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, told AFP there were 57 expeditions planned for 23 Pakistan peaks this season — with 370 climbers having a crack at K2, known as “the savage mountain.”
Besides being far more technically difficult to climb than Everest, weather conditions are notoriously fickle on K2, which has only being scaled by 425 people since 1954.
More than 6,000 people have climbed Everest since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first reached the top in 1953 — some of them multiple times.
Haidri said climbers this year include 90 women — including at least two Pakistanis aiming to become the country’s first to scale K2.
Russian Oxana Morneva is leading a team on the mountain, having failed in her own attempt in 2012 when she was forced back after injuring her knee.
“My rope was broken by falling rocks,” she told AFP.
She said she had no apprehension about returning.
“When we go to the mountain we have to be peaceful inside, and we have to know what we are doing,” she added.
Around 200 climbers will attempt to scale the 8,051-meter Broad Peak, while similar numbers will try Gasherbrum-I (8,080 meters) and Gasherbrum-II (8,035 meters).
A 36-year-old Norwegian climber, Kristin Harila, is also aiming to reach the world’s 14 highest mountain summits in record time.
Having already climbed seven peaks of over 8,000 meters, Harila hopes to match, if not beat, Nepali adventurer Nirmal Purja’s ambitious six months and six days record.
The summer climbing season that started in early June lasts until late August.


Pakistan advises holiday-goers to follow COVID-19 guidelines over Eid festival 

Updated 4 min 59 sec ago

Pakistan advises holiday-goers to follow COVID-19 guidelines over Eid festival 

  • Pakistan has had very few COVID-19 cases in recent months and did away with almost all precautions
  • In 24 hours, Pakistan recorded 805 positive cases, fresh COVID guidelines issued for five-day Eid holiday 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Institute of Health (NIH) on Wednesday urged people to strictly follow COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) while holidaying during the Eid Al-Adha festival that starts on Sunday. 

Pakistan has had very few COVID-19 cases in recent months and did away with almost all precautions.

But the South Asian nation has seen a spike in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, with the national positivity ratio rising to 4.69 percent in the last 24 hours, as 805 tests turned out positive. Over 168 patients are currently in critical care at hospitals across the country.

The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), Pakistan’s federal pandemic response body, also said the COVID-19 positivity rate had reached 17.46 percent in Abbottabad, a main tourist destination in the northwest of the country.

“Strictly adhere to coronavirus safety precautions during your tourist trips,” the NIH said in a statement. “The risk of spreading the coronavirus increases at crowded places, so make sure to use a face mask and [use] hand sanitizer.”

The body also advised people to maintain social distance and ensure that all those traveling to tourist destinations were fully vaccinated and had gotten booster doses

On Tuesday, the government issued fresh guidelines for Eid Al-Adha. 

“Eid UI Adha prayers should be organized in open spaces under stringent COVID protocols. In case of any compulsion to offer the prayers inside mosques, then all windows and doors should be kept open for ventilation / to minimize the chances of disease spread,” the NCOC said in a statement.

The body said up to three Eid prayers should be organized at a single venue with staggered timings to allow maximum people to offer prayers with COVID-19 protocols in place.

“All ulemas leading Eid prayers should be sensitised to keep sermons ... short so that people remain present in the prayer venues for a brief duration,” the guidelines said. “Efforts should be made to discourage sick, elderly and young children from attending Eid prayers.”

People without face masks should not be allowed to enter prayer venues, the NCOC said, adding that prayer venues should have multiple entry and exit points and venue organizers should ensure the availability of hand sanitisers.

“It should be mandatory for all coming for prayers to use sanitisers before entering the venue,” the guidelines said.

“To ensure social distancing protocols, venue organizers to ensure prominent marking (6 feet apart) to allow sufficient space/distance between individuals. People should be encouraged to perform abulution at home before coming for the prayers and also bring their own prayer mats to the venue. Efforts should be made to sensitise people to refrain from embracing and handshaking after the prayer to avoid chances of disease transmission. There should not be any gathering at the prayer venue before the prayer and people should be asked to disperse immediately after the prayer.”

The NCOC said efforts would be made to promote and encourage central and collective sacrifices through various public, private and community organizations, while ensuring adherence to the COVID-19 protocols of mask-wearing, social distancing and avoidance of crowds.


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

Updated 06 July 2022

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.


Children wade through a flooded area after a monsoon rainfall in Quetta, Pakistan on July 5, 2022. (AFP)

“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.