Seven of 11 killed in Daesh attack in Balochistan were Afghans — Kabul foreign ministry 

A mourner from a Shiite Hazara community holds a photograph of a victim near the coffins of other miners who were killed in an attack by gunmen in the mountainous Machh area, during a sit-in protest at the eastern bypass, on the outskirts of Quetta on January 4, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 04 January 2021

Seven of 11 killed in Daesh attack in Balochistan were Afghans — Kabul foreign ministry 

  • 11 miners from the minority Shia Hazara community were executed east of Quetta on Sunday
  • Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack through its news agency, protests continue across Pakistan 

KARACHI: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan on Monday condemned the killing of 11 miners in the southwestern province of Balochistan, saying seven of them were Afghan citizens.

Gunmen abducted a group of minority Hazara Shia coal miners and killed 11 in southwestern Balochistan province early Sunday, Pakistani officials said. The Daesh group later claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on its website. The militant group has repeatedly targeted Pakistan’s minority Shiites in recent years.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan strongly condemns the brutal killing of ten coal miners in Mach village of Bolan district of Pakistan's Balochistan province, seven of whom are Afghan citizens, and extends its condolences to the survivors and members," Kabul said in a statement. 

The consulate general of Afghanistan in Quetta said it had contacted the families of the victims and Pakistani government officials to identify and receive bodies. 

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instructed the Consulate General of Afghanistan in Quetta and the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Islamabad to provide all necessary assistance to the families of the victims," the statement said. "We will work with the Government of Pakistan to complete the investigation into this horrific crime, and we will pursue the matter until the perpetrators are identified and justice is served."

Families of the victims placed the dead bodies on a road connecting Quetta with Sukkar on Sunday, but later moved the bodies to the provincial capital.

Protests continued in Quetta, Lahore, Karachi, Multan and other cities on Monday, Pakistani media reported, while the government continued talks to convince angry protesters to call off demonstrations. 

“We are in contact with the families and elders to persuade them to end the protest,” Liaquat Shahwani, spokesperson of the Balochistan government told Arab News, saying the chief minister had directed law enforcement agencies to ensure the killers were arrested at the “earliest.”

Sunday’s violence has been condemned across the country with Prime Minister Imran Khan taking to Twitter to say the perpetrators would be taken to task and the affected families looked after.

An official with the Levies Force, which serves as police and paramilitary in the area, told local media the gun attack took place near the remote Machh coal field, about 48 km east of the provincial capital Quetta.

Agha Syed Muhammad Raza, a senior leader of the Majlis-e-Wihdatul Muslimeen (MWM), a Shia political organization, said the victims had been blindfolded, with their arms and legs tied up, and were killed with knives.

Arab News could not independently verify this information.

Hafiz Abdul Basit, home secretary Balochistan, said seven of the victims of the attack were illegal Afghan migrants.

Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province is plagued by threats from several armed groups, including sectarian militant outfits who attack minorities, and separatist groups seeking independence for the province.

Quetta is home to roughly 600,000 Hazara Shias, largely confined to two fortified enclaves, and checkpoints manned by paramilitary personnel.

Azam, Nabi cruise Kings to victory over Peshawar Zalmi

Updated 03 March 2021

Azam, Nabi cruise Kings to victory over Peshawar Zalmi

  • Afghan allrounder Muhammad Nabi declared man of the match for his impressive inning
  • In Wednesday's second match, Multan Sultans are taking on Quetta Gladiators

KARACHI: Pakistan’s star batsman Babar Azam and Afghan allrounder Muhammad Nabi cruised the Karachi Kings to victory over table toppers Peshawar Zalmi, defeating them by six wickets at the national stadium in Karachi on Wednesday.

Karachi Kings won the toss, invited Peshawar Zalmi to bat first and completed a chase of 189 runs with three balls to spare, making it 13 consecutive wins for a chasing team since the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2021.

Azam, who scored 77 out of 47 with the help of six fours and three sixes, fell one run short of scoring his 6,000 runs in the Twenty20 cricket career but ensured a win for his side and a place on the top of the points table. Nabi, who was dropped at 20 by Amad Butt, scored 67 of 35 with the help of eight fours and four huge sixes. He made a partnership of 118 runs with Azam, earning victory for his team. 

Nabi was declared man of the match for his impressive inning.

Kings lost their early wickets in their chase of 189 runs. Sharjeel Khan was caught out at the duck, Joe Clarke and Colin Ingram scored only 17 and three runs. Dan Christian, who came to bat after Nabi, scored16 of nine, including the winning shot.

Batting first, Zalmi’s inning started well but debutant Abbas Afridi sent back openers Kamran Akmal and Tom Kohler-Cadmore to the pavilion back-to-back in the fifth over. Akmal scored 21 of 17 and Kohler-Cadmore made 10 of 11. Shoaib Malik, who captained the team in the absence of injured Wahab Riaz, was the third to go in the next over after facing just two balls and making one run. Haider Ali, who batted well in previous innings, could score just nine out of 12 balls and was caught by Afridi on the ball of Christian in the tenth over.

Partnership of 83 runs between Sherfane Rutherford (46 of 32) and Ravi Bopara (58 of 40 not out) provided Zalmi a chance to score a defendable total, but this was Amad Butt’s blitzing 27 on seven balls that made the match interesting. Butt hammered the last over by Christian which turned a treat for the opposition. The Kings’ Australian bowler gave away 32 (almost 17 percent of Zalmi's total) runs in his last year.

Afridi remained the most successful bowler and grabbed two wickets by conceding 27 in his four overs. Muhamad Ilyas took two wickets in his four by giving away 27 runs. Imad Waseem and Arshad Iqbal proved expensive and conceded 16 and 10 respectively in their one and two overs. Christian who took the wicket of dangerous hitter Haider Ali and conceded 13 in first two remained the most expensive due to his over, which provided Peshawar Zalmi a good chance to fight for a win.

In the day's second match, Multan Sultans are taking on Quetta Gladiators which so far have lost all four matches they have played this season.

Major upset as opposition’s Gillani beats finance minister Shaikh for hotly contested senate seat

Updated 03 March 2021

Major upset as opposition’s Gillani beats finance minister Shaikh for hotly contested senate seat

  • Voting ended on Wednesday evening in election for 37 seats in the upper house of parliament
  • Government and opposition alliance battled to get their candidates elected to win a majority in National Assembly

ISLAMABAD: In a major blow to the government, the joint opposition candidate Yousuf Raza Gillani won the general seat from Islamabad, beating the government’s candidate, finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, in a hotly contested election for 37 seats in the upper house of parliament, local media reported. 

Election commission officials started counting the votes after 5pm – the official deadline to close the polls – in the National Assembly and all three provincial assemblies including Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Eleven senators from Punjab have already been declared unopposed winners. 

The ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and an opposition alliance, waged a tough competition to get their candidates Shaikh and Gillani elected respectively, to win a majority in the National Assembly. Pakistani media channels reported on Wednesday evening that Gillani, who is a former prime minister of Pakistan and belongs to the Pakistan Peoples Party, had won against Shaikh, in what is being seen as a major upset for the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. 

The 342-member lower house of the parliament is the electoral college for the two Islamabad seats where it currently has 341 members, with one vacant seat.

“It’s a serious loss for the government of Imran Khan which has lost its majority in the house,” Mohammad Malick, senior political journalist and TV anchor, told Arab News. “Today the government has to worry about two things: a resurgent opposition and an ostensibly neutral establishment. Unless Khan regroups, makes big changes in Punjab and center, he might end up with a perpetually neutral establishment and an emboldened opposition — a combination which could prove fatal for his government.”

Voting started at 9am this morning for an election that has been marred by accusations of corrupt practices and a controversy over the method of voting. 

In Pakistan, a senator serves a term of six years, barring resignation, disqualification, or other extraordinary circumstances. Half of the senators are elected at one time, and the other half three years later. 

This year, 52 senators elected in 2015 are set to retire; the other 52 will retire in 2024. However, elections are being held only for 48 seats after Pakistan’s northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in 2018. The Senate thus now comprises 100 lawmakers: 23 each from all the provinces and four from Islamabad. The remaining four senators from FATA will retire in 2024. 

The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled this Monday that upcoming senate elections would continue to be held through a secret ballot as per the constitution but directed the election commission to use technology to check against corrupt practices in the polls. 

The court’s 4:1 verdict came in response to a presidential reference filed on December 23, 2020 seeking the court’s opinion on whether voting in senate elections could be held through an open ballot. 

The government of PM Khan has argued that open balloting would introduce transparency into a voting process that has long been plagued by irregularities, with national and provincial lawmakers accused of selling their votes. 

Leaders of an 11-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), have opposed the government’s move to try to hold senate elections through an open ballot, and one of the major parties in the alliance, the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam, had filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Election Amendment Ordinance 2021. 

On Tuesday, the election commission said senate elections this year would be held as ‘per past practices,’ saying it was setting up a monitoring mechanism to identify corrupt practices in the elections. 

On Tuesday night, a video surfaced showing the son of former prime minister Gillani, the joint opposition’s most prominent candidate for the polls, explaining to lawmakers how they can waste their vote during the election. 

The government has since demanded the election commission declare Gillani ineligible and has filed a reference with the commission seeking his disqualification for being involved in “corrupt practices.” 


Pakistan to award operational permits to three new domestic airlines

Updated 03 March 2021

Pakistan to award operational permits to three new domestic airlines

  • Legal process to award permits to Q-Airlines, Fly Jinnah, Jet Green Airlines underway, civil aviation authority say
  • With launch of these airlines, Pakistan will have a total of seven airlines including state-owned PIA

KARACHI: Pakistan is in the process of awarding operational permits to three new domestic airlines, officials said on Wednesday, a step industry insiders say will provide a “breather” for a local travel and tourism business badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Q-Airlines, Fly Jinnah and Jet Green Airlines last week applied for Regular Public Transport (RPT) licenses from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to launch domestic flight operations, a CAA spokesperson told Arab News.
“The process for permission to these airlines for starting domestic flight operations in the country is underway,” Saad Bin Ayub, CAA spokesperson said, declining to give a deadline on when the airlines would become operational. “Apart from CAA, multiple government institutions are involved in the process; that may take time,” he added.
RPT licenses would be issued after the completion of legal formalities and final approval from the federal cabinet, Ayub said.
With the launch of the three airlines, Pakistan will have a total of seven airlines, including state-owned Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). In addition, the number of aircrafts in the country would also increase. Pakistan currently has less than 50 percent the number of aircraft needed for a country of more than 220 million people.
“Pakistan has less than 50 aircrafts in total despite huge potential,” Muhammad Yahya Polani, vice chairman of the Travel Agents Association of Pakistan, told Arab News. “The country would have more airlines, that will trigger competition in the travel sector for the benefit of people as they will be able to avail cheaper travel facilities.”
The airlines seeking permits are legally bound to keep a minimum fleet size of three airworthy aircrafts for domestic operations. They can operate on international routes after the completion of one year in the domestic sector for which a minimum of five airworthy aircraft on a purchase/dry-lease are required, according to the National Aviation Policy 2019.
Pakistan currently has three airlines — Airblue, SereneAir and AirSial — operating in the private sector, of which Airblue and SereneAir have around 11 and five aircrafts respectively and operate international routes covering mainly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. AirSial, with three aircrafts, launched in December 2020.
People associated with the travel industry hope the new airlines will provide “breathing space” for a dying sector reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Impacted by the severe crisis of coronavirus, our industry has almost collapsed,” said Muhammad Hanif Rinch, chairman of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Agency Program Joint Council. “These new airlines are a ray of hope for our industry, related travel and tourism. We hope for the best.”
Rinch estimated that around 80 percent of travel agents in Pakistan had closed their business as they were unable to sustain losses under during the pandemic.
“We estimate that out of 1,800 IATA approved travel agents, around 1,200 have permanently or temporarily shutdown their businesses while out of 13,000 non-IATA active agents, around 80 percent have succumbed to the COVID-19 crisis”, he added.
Travel agents say new airlines will not only create job opportunities but also help in the promotion of tourism in the country.
“Around 12,000 people from IATA approved agencies are estimated to have lost jobs since the start of the health crisis,” Rinch said. “We expect that most of the people who have spent years in ticketing and tariff sides would get jobs.”
Minimum paid-up capital of Rs 100 million is required to set up an airline in Pakistan. Foreign investment, if any, is allowed but can not be more than 49 percent of the paid up capital so that controlling interest remains in local hands, according to CAA laws. 

Pakistan military chief discusses defense cooperation with Qatari commander 

Updated 03 March 2021

Pakistan military chief discusses defense cooperation with Qatari commander 

  • Pakistan’s defense production minister on Tuesday offered military training to Qatari armed forces
  • Qatar says intends to create greater employment opportunities for Pakistanis in coming years

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa discussed defense cooperation with Qatar Emiri Land Forces commander Maj. Gen. Saeed Hussain Al-Khayarin on Wednesday, the Pakistani military said.

Al-Khayarin visited Bajwa at the Pakistani armed forces headquarters in Rawalpindi a day after Pakistan’s defense production Zobaida Jalal offered military training to Qatari armed forces.

“During the meeting, matters of mutual & professional interest, regional security situation including Afghan Peace Process and enhanced bilateral defense & security cooperation were discussed,” the Pakistani military media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said in a statement, adding that Al-Khayarin expressed appreciation of Pakistan’s “sincere efforts for regional peace.”

On Tuesday, Defense Production Minister Zobaida Jalal told the Qatari envoy to Pakistan, Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman bin Faisal Al-Thani, that her country’s military institutions were open to soldiers belonging to the Arab state.

Jalal applauded diplomatic relations between the two countries, calling Qatar a “trustworthy friend” of Pakistan, the Ministry of Defense Production said in a statement.

Last month, the two countries signed a 10-year Liquefied Natural Gas supply contract at the “lowest-ever publicly disclosed price under a long-term contract in the world.”

Qatar Consul General in Karachi Mishal Al-Ansari also told the local business community earlier this week that his country’s administration was planning to increase employment opportunities for Pakistani nationals in the coming years.

He said the two countries were working on several joint ventures in the area of defense production and collaborating in agricultural and industrial sectors.

The Qatari ambassador also promised full cooperation with Pakistan during his interaction with the minister for defense production, saying his country would strive to broaden and deepen its relations with the South Asian country.


In Pakistan’s Thar desert, one snake charmer struggles to keep a dying art alive 

Updated 03 March 2021

In Pakistan’s Thar desert, one snake charmer struggles to keep a dying art alive 

  • Misri Jogi is the last in his generation who can also make the murli, or special flute used for snake charming
  • Snake charmers in Sindh province vanishing due to lack of government support, as younger generations turn to professions with more reliable incomes

UMERKOT, Sindh: For generations now, members of the ancient Jogi community in Pakistan’s vast Thar Desert have thrived on catching venomous snakes and making them dance to their music.
Today, the nomadic snake charmers of Pakistan’s southern Sindh province are vanishing due to a lack of government patronage and as younger generations attend school and opt for professions with more reliable incomes.

But Misri Jogi, a famous chieftain of the community, says he is resolved to keep the dying art of snake charming alive.
A teacher and leader of the profession, Misri has received various awards for his skills, including the ‘Award of Excellence’ from the president of Pakistan. He is also the last snake charmer in Sindh who can make the murli, or special flute used for snake charming.

Chief of the snake charmers' community, Misri Jogi showcases the “Tamgha-e-Imtiaz” medal, conferred to him in 2013, in Umerkot, in the Thar desert region of Pakistan, on February 28, 2021. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

“In the past, one out of every household could make the murli in my generation,” Misri said in an interview at the Misri Jogi colony in Sindh’s Umerkot district. “Today there is hardly any need for a murli-maker as snake charming as an art has collapsed. I am the only murli-maker left in the Thar region.”
The colony is home to an estimated 5,000 households of Jogis, Misri said, saying there were around 100,000 snake charmers in Sindh, and 30,000 just in Umerkot.
“I am trying to pass on my generation’s art to the world as well as my future generations knowing they will not use it,” Misri lamented as he sat on the ground making a murli out of a dry hollowed gourd and two bamboo attachments. A crowd encircled him, watching intently. “But at least they will remember it,” he added, touching a hand to his high, gracefully folded orange turban.

Chief of the snake charmers' community, Misri Jogi, charms a cobra with his murli, a wind instrument, in Umerkot in the Thar desert region of Pakistan, on February 28, 2021. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Misri’s Girnari tribe is one of the many groups that has historically practiced snake charming in the Thar desert. The tribes, including Misri’s own, are followers of the late saint Goga Pir. According to their beliefs, the Jogis make a sacred pact with a snake in the name of their saint, promising to release it into the wild anywhere between a period of two months to a year. The snake charmers promise the snake milk and water and in return it promises not to hurt them and guards them against evil. Many charmers will even let the cobras sleep in their beds during winter nights.
But even finding snakes was becoming a challenge now, Misri said, due to increased loss of habitats as agriculture grew and became more mechanized. And it did not help that many people increasingly now linked the art with “beggary.”
“Snake charming has been our sole bread and butter,” he said. “Since there is no government support, artists were helpless and were forced to beg in return for showcasing the art.”
He said if the government wished to preserve the art, it must set up a vocational training center in the Thar Desert. Otherwise more and more within the younger generation would abandon the profession, especially as opportunities for formal schooling opened up, Misri said.
Unlike his father, 22-year-old Prem Jogi said he did not learn snake charming but apprenticed instead at a mechanic’s shop. Today, he owns a motorbike repair shop in Umerkot town.

Prem Jogi poses for a picture as he repairs a motorbike in his shop in Umerkot in the Thar desert region of Pakistan, on February 28, 2021. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

“Begging that comes because of snake charming is an insult; you cannot bear it for long,” Prem told Arab News. “The new generation is getting away from snake charming in order to preserve their self respect.”