Religious party says Pakistan government has agreed to expel French envoy within months

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, a religious political party, block a main highway during an anti-France rally in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 17 November 2020

Religious party says Pakistan government has agreed to expel French envoy within months

  • Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan led thousands of protesters to Islamabad against the printing of cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in France
  • TLP says government has also agreed not to appoint an envoy to France, officially boycott French goods and release arrested supporters of the TLP

ISLAMABAD: A radical religious party, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), that had led thousands of protesters to Islamabad for a sit-in on Sunday, released a copy of an agreement with the government on Monday night, saying the government had met all its demands, including that it would expel the French ambassador from Pakistan within three months.
The protesters arrived on the outskirts of Islamabad on Sunday night, calling for the 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.
“Talks between the government and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan were successful,” the religious affairs ministry said in a statement on Monday night. “Allama Khadim Rizvi [head of the TLP] will announce the end of the sit-in shortly.”
In a handwritten copy of the agreement circulated by TLP but which the government has not yet officially endorsed, the party said the government had accepted all its demands.
“The government will expel the French ambassador within two to three months after legislation in parliament,” the first demand read.
Pakistan would not appoint a new ambassador to France, boycott all French goods at the official level and release all arrested supporters of the TLP, the agreement said.
The handwritten agreement has been signed by Religious Affairs Noor ul Haq Qadri, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah and Commissioner Islamabad Amir Ahmed as well as three representatives of the TLP, not including Rizvi.
Talks between the government and the protest leaders were ordered by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the religious affairs ministry said.
Though the government has not officially confirmed the agreement yet, the interior ministry issued a notification ordering the release of all TLP supporters arrested during the past two days. At least 400 people were arrested just in Rawalpindi on Sunday. Geo News reported.
On Sunday, police fired teargas on stone-pelting protesters in clashes in which dozens of policemen and protesters were injured, Dawn newspaper said.
The protesters, who number in the thousands, had sent up camp at the Faizabad Interchange, which connects major highways between the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Rawalpindi’s 24 entry points were 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 had vowed 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.
PM 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 to expand COVID-19 vaccination to children next month as cases rise

Updated 13 August 2022

Pakistan to expand COVID-19 vaccination to children next month as cases rise

  • Government expects to receive vaccines and special syringes by next week
  • Pakistan Medical Association says vaccine for children is safe and effective

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government said on Saturday it will start vaccinating children aged five to eleven against COVID-19 from mid-September as infection figures are again on the rise.

After reporting a significant decline in COVID-19 cases earlier this year, Pakistan did away with almost all coronavirus restrictions. It has been witnessing a spike in infections since June, although health authorities say the situation largely remains under control and has fully vaccinated against COVID-19 over 88 percent of the population aged above 12 years.

“We will be starting COVID-19 vaccination of children aged between five to eleven years by mid-September,” Muazzam Abbas Ranjha, a vaccination lead at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad told Arab News.

“The process for procurement of the vaccine and special syringes for the purpose is underway, and we’ll be receiving them next week.”

Ranjha said that Pakistan has done “extremely well” in immunizing its population against the pandemic and that’s why the numbers of deaths and infections have remained low compared to the neighboring countries.

“Now it’s time to immunize our children against the disease to curb the virus spread,” he said. “It is vital to administer the vaccine to our children as well to immunize the whole population against the virus.”

The country has conducted 20,272 COVID-19 tests in the last 24 hours, out of which 728 turned out to be positive or 3.59 percent with three deaths. A total of 161 patients are in critical condition, the official data says.

Ranjha said the number of daily infections in the country was under control as the government was constantly monitoring the situation.

“There is nothing alarming so far, but the people should still keep following health guidelines like mask wearing and social distancing at public places to evade the infection,” he said.

Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association, told Arab News the vaccination of children would help boost general immunity.

“The scientific data available shows the vaccine for children is safe and effective,” he said, adding that the government should roll out an awareness before starting the drive.

“Developed countries have already started vaccination of the children to curb the virus, and it is highly recommended that we should also start it as quickly as possible.”

Summer home where Pakistani founder spent final days lives on as monument to his memory

Updated 14 min 32 sec ago

Summer home where Pakistani founder spent final days lives on as monument to his memory

  • Two-story wooden building called Quaid-e-Azam Residency was built by British in Ziarat Valley in 1892
  • It was a summer retreat of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, today one of Pakistan’s most widely visited heritage sites

QUETTA: A single bed, modest wooden furniture, and black and white photographs on the walls of a small bedroom in a 19th-century residence in southwest Pakistan present an unassuming setting. 

But this is no ordinary room: it has special significance for Pakistanis as the place where the country's founding father spent some of the last days of his life.  

The Ziarat, or Quaid-e-Azam, Residency, has a two-story wooden structure amidst a juniper forest and was built during British rule in 1892. Located in Ziarat Valley, a picturesque hill station in Balochistan province, the house was a summer retreat of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader). It was also where Jinnah stayed for two months as he tried to recover from a lung disease a year after the success of his movement to separate Pakistan from India on Aug. 14, 1947 after the end of British colonial rule. 

Decades later, people from across the country visit Ziarat to pay tribute to Jinnah's memory.

Chairs and a table used by Pakistani founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah for political meetings on display at his summer residence in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)  

“We have read about the Quaid Residency in books and heard stories from our elders … but when I stepped inside the residency, my feelings changed,” Chanda Ashraf, a 21-year-old student from Gujranwala, told Arab News.  

“Inside this residency, I have experienced how the Quaid lived here and his existence was tangible,” she said. “I request all Pakistanis to visit this place once in their lifetime.”

The house has eight rooms, fitted with cedar wood. Jinnah’s bedroom is on the second floor, in front of his sister’s, Fatimah Jinnah, who took care of him in Ziarat.

Tourists take photos in front of Pakistani founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s summer residence in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)

Jinnah had had tuberculosis since the 1930s, but hid his condition because he believed it would hurt him politically, historians say. In July 1948, Jinnah arrived in Quetta and journeyed to the higher retreat at Ziarat, where the Pakistani government sent the best doctors it could find to treat him. It was here that a diagnosis of tuberculosis and advanced lung cancer was confirmed. 

On August 13, on the eve of the first anniversary of the independence for which he had fought so hard, the founding father was moved to the lower altitude of Quetta and finally back to Karachi on September 11, 1948. 

Jinnah died later that night at 10:20 pm at his home in Karachi. He was 71 years old and Pakistan was a little over one. 

Today, the Quaid’s clothes and the tableware he and his sister had used at the Ziarat summer home are on display at the residency - now a museum and one of Pakistan’s most widely visited national heritage sites. 
The Quaid-e-Azam Residency has also appeared on the 100-rupee note since 2006.

A dining table used by Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah is on display at his summer residence in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)  

Muhammad Rahim, who for the past 19 years has been working as an official tour guide at the residency, said he was proud to be working at the house belonging to the man who had “struggled for an independent country for our future generations.”

“My late uncle Toti Khan had performed duties in the residency when Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had come to live here back in the summer of 1948,” he told Arab News.  

Muhammad Rahim, a guide at the Quaid-e-Azam Residency, poses at the museum’s gallery with photos of Pakistani founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)  

“Despite two janitors hired for cleaning Quaid’s residence, I clean the entire residency with my hands, because I consider it as my service for the Quaid.”

The building was damaged in 2013, when a blaze tore through its wooden structure after a grenade attack by a Baloch separatist group. It was restored within four months.

Balochistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency, and a few attacks have been reported in Ziarat district in recent years, but the province’s tourism minister, Abdul Khaliq Hazara says, told Arab News the security situation was normal and thousands of people visited Jinnah’s residence every year.

“The government has been developing the infrastructure in Ziarat to facilitate tourists,” he said. “The Quaid Residency is a national heritage.”

A visitor Mohamad Alam Qasim said: "Not just for Balochistan, this is Pakistan’s heritage. Quaid-e-Azam was our national hero. He was everyone's leader."

Pakistan condemns suicide blast targeting Saudi security forces in Jeddah

Updated 13 August 2022

Pakistan condemns suicide blast targeting Saudi security forces in Jeddah

  • Security forces were targeted while trying to arrest a suspect in a deadly 2015 mosque attack
  • Explosion injured three members of the security forces and a Pakistani resident

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan condemned on Saturday a suicide blast that targeted Saudi security forces during an attempt to arrest a man linked to a deadly 2015 bombing in the Kingdom.

Abdullah bin Zayed Abdulrahman Al-Bakri Al-Shehri detonated a suicide vest when security forces attempted to arrest him in Jeddah earlier this week, the Presidency of State Security said on Friday.

When the militant blew himself up, he died at the scene, with the explosion injuring three members of the security forces and a Pakistani resident.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the recent terrorist incident in Jeddah, resulting in injuries, including to a Pakistani national,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement.

“The Government and people of Pakistan reiterate their full support for and deep solidarity with the leadership, government and brotherly people of Saudi Arabia against any threats to the Kingdom’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Al-Shehri was suspected of being a member of a militant cell that coordinated the 2015 suicide bombing of a mosque in Abha frequented by security force members.

Eleven members of the security forces and four Bangladeshi nationals were killed in the 2015 attack.

Finance division says Pakistan’s economy made headway despite challenges since independence

Updated 13 August 2022

Finance division says Pakistan’s economy made headway despite challenges since independence

  • The country is currently facing the daunting challenge of dealing with a mounting current account deficit, dwindling forex reserves
  • The finance division says its aspiration is to put Pakistan’s economy on higher growth trajectory through investment, efficiency, productivity

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance division on Saturday brought out a comprehensive report on 75 years of the country’s economic journey, showing the economy had improved its growth potential over a period of time despite tough challenges.

Pakistan is poised to celebrate its 75th independence anniversary on Sunday.

The South Asian nation of over 220 million people is currently facing a daunting challenge of managing a stuttering economy, as it faces a huge current account deficit projected at nearly four percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The country’s foreign exchange reserves have also been consistently depleting in recent months, though officials say Pakistan will soon be in a position to stabilize its external sector with the assistance of friendly countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“Pakistan’s GDP rose from $3bn to $383bn from 1950-2022,” the report said. “In 1950, GDP was 1.8 percent and in 2022 it is 5.97 percent.”

The report noted the per capita income in Pakistan also rose from $86 to $1,798 within the same period.

“Exports rose from $355.5 million to $72.0 billion from 1950-2022,” it added, “while Tax Revenues rose from Rs. 0.31 billion to Rs. 6,126.1 billion from 1950-2022.”

The finance division said Pakistan only inherited 34 industrial units at the time of its independence out of the 921 currently operating in the country.

“FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] increased from $1.2 million in FY1950 to $1,867.8 million in FY2022,” it noted, “while the remittances increased from $0.14 billion in FY1973 to $31.2 billion in FY2022.”

“Pakistan has made significant headway in spite of the many challenges that it has faced,” the report maintained. “The nation was able to transform itself into a semi-industrial economy and hub for business activities.”

The finance division added its aspiration was to put the economy on a higher growth trajectory through greater investment, efficiency and productivity.

Pakistan’s ousted prime minister’s party hires public relations firm for media management in US

Updated 13 August 2022

Pakistan’s ousted prime minister’s party hires public relations firm for media management in US

  • The firm will try to improve the party image in the US through information distribution, media briefings
  • Imran Khan’s political rivals say he is ‘begging’ the US after accusing it of toppling his administration in April

ISLAMABAD: Months after Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan said his government was brought down by the administration in Washington, the American chapter of his party has hired a public relations firm to improve its image in the United States through information distribution and media management.
Khan was driven out of power in a no-confidence vote in April after he lost his parliamentary majority. However, he told his workers and supporters he was “punished” for pursuing an independent foreign policy which was not liked by the US.
He also maintained the “international conspiracy” against him had succeeded since it was carried out with the help of “local abettors,” though his allegations were later denied by US and Pakistani officials repeatedly.
According to the agreement, a copy of which is available on the Internet, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) US chapter has engaged Fenton/Arlook LLC for six months from August 1 on a monthly retainer fee of $25,000 to arrange media briefings and help the party with placement of articles and broadcasts.
“Fenton/Arlook shall provide public relations services, including but not limited to distributing information to and briefing journalists, placing articles and broadcasts, arranging interviews with representatives or supporters of PTI, advising on social media efforts and other such public relations services,” the agreement said.
The US firm noted its client did not include the PTI party registered in Pakistan.
“This is an agreement between a PR firm, not a lobbyist, and a group of US citizens,” Sajjad Burki, Khan’s focal person for the US, told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. “We are not lobbying for PTI Pakistan, and certainly not within the US administration.”
The former prime minister’s political rivals sharply reacted to the development, saying he had many faces.
Senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ahsan Iqbal accused Khan of “begging [the] USA” after telling his followers that his government was toppled on Washington’s behest.



However, former information minister and Khan’s close aide, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, said the American firm was hired by the PTI USA “to put its point across in the media.”