PM urges mourners to bury dead in miners' killing as protests enter day four

A mourner from a Shiite Hazara community holds the portrait of a victim as they gather near the coffins of 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 5, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 06 January 2021

PM urges mourners to bury dead in miners' killing as protests enter day four

  • Federal ministers Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari and Ali Zaidi arrived in Quetta overnight to hold talks with protest organizers
  • Families of victims of Daeash attack have placed coffins on a major highway in Quetta, refuse to bury their relatives until PM Khan visits Quetta

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan on Wednesday urged relatives of 11 Hazara Shia miners killed in the southwestern Balochistan province on Sunday to end their protest and bury their loved ones, saying he would visit the mourners for condolences “soon.”

Thousands of protesters in Balochistan continued a sit-in on Wednesday, saying they would not bury their dead relatives until Khan visited the province and ensured justice. 

Gunmen abducted a group of minority Hazara Shia coal miners and killed 11 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.

Families of the victims placed the dead bodies on a road connecting Quetta with Sukkar on Sunday, but later moved them to the provincial capital where they have been sitting with the coffins on a major highway since.

“I share your pain & have come to you before also to stand with you in your time of suffering,” the PM tweeted, addressing relatives of the deceased. “I will come again very soon to offer prayers and condole with all the families personally. I will never betray my people’s trust. Please bury your loved ones so their souls find peace.”

Protests against the killings also continued in Quetta, Lahore, Karachi, Multan and other cities on Wednesday, Pakistani media reported, while the government continued talks to convince angry protesters to call off demonstrations. Interior minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, who arrived in Quetta on Monday, met a delegation of the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM), which is leading the sit-in in the provincial capital. 

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Rasheed said that he had asked the MWM to form a five-to-seven-member committee to meet with Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad: “I will arrange the meeting within two-three days,” he said.

The interior minister announced compensation of Rs2.5 million to the heirs of each victim, and assured the families of justice.

Federal Ministers Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari and Ali Zaidi also arrived in Quetta on Tuesday night to hold talks with protest organizers. The negotiations are ongoing.

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.

“The people of Hazara community are great, who despite such terrorist attacks are loyal to the country,” the interior minister told reporters.

On Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the killing of 11 miners, saying seven of them were Afghan citizens.

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, said the victims had been blindfolded, with their arms and legs tied up, and were killed with knives.

“We have become tired of picking up the bodies of our people,” Syed Agha Raza, a Hazara political leader, told Reuters.

Masooma Yaqoob Ali said her elder brother along with four other relatives was among those killed.

“Now we have no male member [of our family] to take coffins of our brother and other relatives to the graveyard for burial,” she said, shedding tears as she spoke.


India, Pakistan held ‘secret talks’ to try to break Kashmir impasse 

Updated 14 April 2021

India, Pakistan held ‘secret talks’ to try to break Kashmir impasse 

  • Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan met in Dubai in January 
  • Back channel diplomacy is aimed at a modest roadmap to normalizing ties over the next several months

NEW DELHI: Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held secret talks in Dubai in January in a new effort to calm military tension over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, people with close knowledge of the matter told Reuters in Delhi.
Ties between the nuclear-armed rivals have been on ice since a suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir in 2019 traced to Pakistan-based militants that led to India sending warplanes to Pakistan.
Later that year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew Indian-ruled Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten his grip over the territory, provoking outrage in Pakistan and the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade.
But the two governments have re-opened a back channel of diplomacy aimed at a modest roadmap to normalizing ties over the next several months, the people said.
Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan, both of which claim all of the region but rule only in part.
Officials from India’s Research and Analysis Wing, the external spy agency, and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence traveled to Dubai for a meeting facilitated by the United Arab Emirates government, two people said.
The Indian foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Pakistan’s military, which controls the ISI, also did not respond.
But Ayesha Siddiqa, a top Pakistani defense analyst, said she believed Indian and Pakistan intelligence officials had been meeting for several months in third countries.
“I think there have been meetings in Thailand, in Dubai, in London between the highest level people,” she said.

’IT IS FRAUGHT’
Such meetings have taken place in the past too, especially during times of crises but never been publicly acknowledged.
“There is a lot that can still go wrong, it is fraught,” said one of the people in Delhi. “That is why nobody is talking it up in public, we don’t even have a name for this, it’s not a peace process. You can call it a re-engagement,” one of them said.
Both countries have reasons to seek a rapprochement. India has been locked in a border stand-off with China since last year and does not want the military stretched on the Pakistan front.
China-ally Pakistan, mired in economic difficulties and on an IMF bailout program, can ill-afford heightened tensions on the Kashmir border for a prolonged period, experts say. It also has to stabilize the Afghan border on its west as the United States withdraws.
“It’s better for India and Pakistan to talk than not talk, and even better that it should be done quietly than in a glare of publicity,” said Myra MacDonald, a former Reuters journalist who has just published a book on India, Pakistan and war on the frontiers of Kashmir.
.”..But I don’t see it going very far beyond a basic management of tensions, possibly to tide both countries over a difficult period — Pakistan needs to address the fall-out of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, while India has to confront a far more volatile situation on its disputed frontier with China.”

DIALLING DOWN THE RHETORIC
Following the January meeting, India and Pakistan announced they would stop cross-border shooting along the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir which has left dozens of civilians dead and many others maimed. That cease-fire is holding, military officials in both countries said.
Both sides have also signalled plans to hold elections on their sides of Kashmir this year as part of efforts to bring normalcy to a region riven by decades of bloodshed.
The two have also agreed to dial down their rhetoric, the people Reuters spoke to said.
This would include Pakistan dropping its loud objections to Modi abrogating Kashmir’s autonomy in August 2019, while Delhi in turn would refrain from blaming Pakistan for all violence on its side of the Line of Control.
These details have not been previously reported. India has long blamed Pakistan for the revolt in Kashmir, an allegation denied by Pakistan.
“There is a recognition there will be attacks inside Kashmir, there has been discussions as to how to deal with it and not let this effort derailed by the next attack,” one of the people said.
There is as yet, however, no grand plan to resolve the 74-year-old Kashmir dispute. Rather both sides are trying to reduce tensions to pave the way for a broad engagement, all the people Reuters spoke to said.
“Pakistan is transiting from a geo-strategic domain to a geo-economic domain,” Raoof Hasan, special assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, told Reuters.
“Peace, both within and around with its neighbors, is a key constituent to facilitate that.” 


India, Pakistan held ‘secret talks’ to try to break Kashmir impasse 

Updated 14 April 2021

India, Pakistan held ‘secret talks’ to try to break Kashmir impasse 

  • Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan met in Dubai in January 
  • Back channel diplomacy is aimed at a modest roadmap to normalizing ties over the next several months

NEW DELHI: Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held secret talks in Dubai in January in a new effort to calm military tension over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, people with close knowledge of the matter told Reuters in Delhi.
Ties between the nuclear-armed rivals have been on ice since a suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir in 2019 traced to Pakistan-based militants that led to India sending warplanes to Pakistan.
Later that year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew Indian-ruled Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten his grip over the territory, provoking outrage in Pakistan and the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade.
But the two governments have re-opened a back channel of diplomacy aimed at a modest roadmap to normalizing ties over the next several months, the people said.
Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan, both of which claim all of the region but rule only in part.
Officials from India’s Research and Analysis Wing, the external spy agency, and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence traveled to Dubai for a meeting facilitated by the United Arab Emirates government, two people said.
The Indian foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Pakistan’s military, which controls the ISI, also did not respond.
But Ayesha Siddiqa, a top Pakistani defense analyst, said she believed Indian and Pakistan intelligence officials had been meeting for several months in third countries.
“I think there have been meetings in Thailand, in Dubai, in London between the highest level people,” she said.

’IT IS FRAUGHT’
Such meetings have taken place in the past too, especially during times of crises but never been publicly acknowledged.
“There is a lot that can still go wrong, it is fraught,” said one of the people in Delhi. “That is why nobody is talking it up in public, we don’t even have a name for this, it’s not a peace process. You can call it a re-engagement,” one of them said.
Both countries have reasons to seek a rapprochement. India has been locked in a border stand-off with China since last year and does not want the military stretched on the Pakistan front.
China-ally Pakistan, mired in economic difficulties and on an IMF bailout program, can ill-afford heightened tensions on the Kashmir border for a prolonged period, experts say. It also has to stabilize the Afghan border on its west as the United States withdraws.
“It’s better for India and Pakistan to talk than not talk, and even better that it should be done quietly than in a glare of publicity,” said Myra MacDonald, a former Reuters journalist who has just published a book on India, Pakistan and war on the frontiers of Kashmir.
.”..But I don’t see it going very far beyond a basic management of tensions, possibly to tide both countries over a difficult period — Pakistan needs to address the fall-out of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, while India has to confront a far more volatile situation on its disputed frontier with China.”

DIALLING DOWN THE RHETORIC
Following the January meeting, India and Pakistan announced they would stop cross-border shooting along the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir which has left dozens of civilians dead and many others maimed. That cease-fire is holding, military officials in both countries said.
Both sides have also signalled plans to hold elections on their sides of Kashmir this year as part of efforts to bring normalcy to a region riven by decades of bloodshed.
The two have also agreed to dial down their rhetoric, the people Reuters spoke to said.
This would include Pakistan dropping its loud objections to Modi abrogating Kashmir’s autonomy in August 2019, while Delhi in turn would refrain from blaming Pakistan for all violence on its side of the Line of Control.
These details have not been previously reported. India has long blamed Pakistan for the revolt in Kashmir, an allegation denied by Pakistan.
“There is a recognition there will be attacks inside Kashmir, there has been discussions as to how to deal with it and not let this effort derailed by the next attack,” one of the people said.
There is as yet, however, no grand plan to resolve the 74-year-old Kashmir dispute. Rather both sides are trying to reduce tensions to pave the way for a broad engagement, all the people Reuters spoke to said.
“Pakistan is transiting from a geo-strategic domain to a geo-economic domain,” Raoof Hasan, special assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, told Reuters.
“Peace, both within and around with its neighbors, is a key constituent to facilitate that.” 


Babar hits 122 as Pakistan defeat South Africa by nine wickets

Updated 14 April 2021

Babar hits 122 as Pakistan defeat South Africa by nine wickets

  • He aslo dethroned Virat Kohli as the world’s top batsman in one-day cricket
  • Pakistan took a 2-1 lead in the four-match series

Centurion, South Africa: Pakistan captain Babar Azam gave a batting masterclass to lead Pakistan to a nine-wicket win in the third Twenty20 international against South Africa at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday.

Babar hit 122, his first T20 international century, as Pakistan chased down a challenging target of 204 with two overs to spare.

Babar, who earlier Wednesday dethroned Indian maestro Virat Kohli as the world’s top batsman in one-day cricket, hit 15 fours and four sixes in an exhibition of superb timing and placement before he was out with only seven runs needed.

Mohammad Rizwan scored an unbeaten 73 in a Pakistan record first wicket partnership of 197.

Pakistan took a 2-1 lead in the four-match series.


Pakistan bowl in third T20 international against South Africa 

Updated 14 April 2021

Pakistan bowl in third T20 international against South Africa 

  • Batsman Fakhar Zaman recovered from illness and is back on the pitch
  • The four-match series is tied at 1-1 

Centurion, South Africa: Pakistan won the toss and decided to bowl in the third Twenty20 international against South Africa at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday.
The four-match series is tied at 1-1.
Leading batsman Rassie van der Dussen had recovered from a quad muscle injury and replaced the inexperienced Wihan Lubbe that won the second match in Johannesburg by six wickets on Monday.
Pakistan made three changes. Hard-hitting batsman Fakhar Zaman had recovered from illness and replaced Sharjeel Khan, while batsman Asif Ali came in for leg-spinner Usman Qadir in what captain Babar Azam said was a move to strengthen the middle-order batting.
Haris Rauf replaced fellow fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain.
South African captain Heinrich Klaasen said he would also have chosen to bowl if he had won the toss.
“It looks a good wicket. If there is anything in it, it will be up front,” he said. 


Approved in Pakistan: CanSinoBIO says no serious blood clots from its vaccine

Updated 14 April 2021

Approved in Pakistan: CanSinoBIO says no serious blood clots from its vaccine

  • US recommended pausing use of similar vaccine from Johnson & Johnson after 6 women got rare blood clots
  • CanSinoBIO’s Ad5-nCoV vaccine is approved in China, Hungary, Chile and Pakistan

BEIJING: China’s CanSino Biologics Inc. said on Wednesday that no serious blood clot cases had been reported in people inoculated with its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, which is approved for emergency use in Pakistan.
US federal health agencies recommended on Tuesday that use of a similar one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson be paused after six women developed rare blood clots.
CanSinoBIO’s shares fell as much as 13.7% and 18.4% in Shanghai and Hong Kong respectively.
They pared losses to close down 6.3% and 7.7% each after the company issued a statement in which it said: “No blood clot related serious adverse events have been reported in around one million vaccinations of Ad5-nCoV.”
CanSinoBIO’s Ad5-nCoV vaccine is approved in China, Hungary, Chile and Pakistan.
European regulators this month said they had found a possible link between AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine and a similar rare blood clotting problem.
Several countries have since limited the AstraZeneca vaccine’s use to certain age groups, while the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the benefits outweigh the risks.
Experts said clotting risks for both vaccines remain extremely low and they are highly effective in providing protection against COVID-19, amid concern that reports of the rare side effects could deter people from getting their shots.
“There are other vaccines in clinical use where rare side effects are reported – rotavirus, measles, yellow fever. Yet the vaccines save hundreds of thousands of lives,” said Jerome Kim, director general of the International Vaccine Institute.
“We are looking at rare events ... Countries need to assess the risk of vaccination against the known risk of not vaccinating.”
COVID-19 vaccines from J&J, AstraZeneca, CanSinoBIO and Russia’s Gamaleya Institute uses an adenovirus, a harmless cold virus, as a vector to deliver instructions for human cells to produce part of the coronavirus that can spur the immune system to recognize and attack the actual virus.