Special security cell to provide protection to minority Hazara community — PM Khan

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, center, and other officials listen to families of the Shiite Hazara community's coal mine workers, who were killed by gunmen near the Machh coal field, at a meeting, in Quetta on Jan. 9, 2021. (Press Information Department via AP)
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Updated 09 January 2021

Special security cell to provide protection to minority Hazara community — PM Khan

  • The prime minister blames India for the killing of Hazara coal miners, describing the tragedy as 'part of the bigger game'
  • Khan promises to forcefully go after the perpetrators of the recent anti-Hazara attack and bring them to justice

KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan announced during his trip to Quetta on Saturday that his government was planning to set up a new security cell that would be responsible for providing protection to the minority Hazara community. 
Khan made the statement while interacting with the grieving relatives of 11 Shia Hazara coal miners who were killed in a sectarian attack by Daesh on January 3.
"I was constantly in touch with our intelligence agencies and discovered that there are about 35 to 40 people who were committing such acts of terror," he said. "We have developed a whole program [to counter such incidents] and are making a new security cell that will be responsible for providing you full protection."
He added that he knew how members of the Hazara community were targeted in the past, adding that his administration would forcefully go after the perpetrators of the recent attack. 
"Our intelligence agencies informed us in March that India was planning to instigate trouble in Pakistan by assassinating leaders of Shias and Sunnis," Khan continued. "I must also applaud the Inter-Services Intelligence [Pakistan’s spy agency] for preempting at least three or four assassination plots. So, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this tragedy was also part of the bigger [geopolitical] game."
Thousands of Shia Hazaras in southwestern Balochistan had blockaded a highway in Quetta with the bodies of the coal miners after last week's sectarian, saying they would not withdraw or bury the deceased until Khan met them and the killers were brought to justice. 
A controversy erupted on Friday, however, when the prime minister suggested that the mourners were "blackmailing" him by not burying their dead.
"This is not the first time our community has been targeted," a grieving Hazara woman told him while explaining why the protesters were insisting on meeting with him. "Several ministers also visited us in the past and promised to offer us protection. That's why you were our only hope." 
Khan said that his mission was not just to unite people in Pakistan but also address sectarian divisions within the Muslim world. 
"Don't worry, we will fully take care of you," he told a member of Hazara community who said that her only brother, who took care of the whole family, had been killed in the incident. 
The prime minister, who landed in Quetta on Saturday after the burials of the coal miners, assured the families of the slain workers that his government would fully implement its written agreement with them and provide full protection to their community.
Earlier on Friday, protesters and grieving families were met by two federal ministers and provincial chief minister after the agitation worsened following the Prime Minister's controversial words. 
Speaking to the media after talks with the protesters, the government's chief negotiator, Ali Haider Zaidi, said that a written agreement had been struck between the Hazara community and the government for the first time. 
According to the agreement, a copy of which is available with Arab News, a high-level commission will investigate the incident and the outcomes of other investigations of militant acts against the Shia Hazara community in the last 22 years. 
The agreement says the commission will expedite the punishment/execution of those arrested "in acts of terrorism" against the Hazara Shia community, and would "probe" the community's missing persons cases. 
The government will provide Rs. 1.5 million ($9,360) as monetary compensation to the family of each slain person and "initiate process for job employment" to the next of kin of the slain. 
The agreement also says that the government of Balochistan and other law enforcement agencies would chalk out a "comprehensive security strategy" for highways and for mines belonging to the Hazara Shia community. 
Under the agreement, a special committee will be formed to address the grievances of the Hazara community in the issuance of national identity cards and passports. 
Federal Maritime Minister Ali Zaidi, Special Assistant to the PM Zulfi Bukhari, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, Provincial Home Minister Mir Zia Langu and other provincial ministers and civil society leaders were present during funeral prayers offered in Quetta on Saturday, alongside thousands of other attendees.


US president Biden pushes Pakistan for ‘support’ as he announces Afghan exit

Updated 9 min 58 sec ago

US president Biden pushes Pakistan for ‘support’ as he announces Afghan exit

  • President Joe Biden plans to withdraw the remaining 2,500 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11
  • Says will ask countries in the region to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, Russia, China, India and Turkey

ISLAMABAD: US Pre­sident Joe Biden warned the Taliban on Wednesday he would hold them accountable in Afghanistan after the exit of United States troops, and pressed nations, including Pakistan, to play a supportive role.
President Joe Biden plans to withdraw the remaining 2,500 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, 20 years to the day after the Al-Qaeda attacks that triggered America’s longest war.
The disclosure of the plan came on the same day that the US intelligence community released a gloomy outlook for Afghanistan, forecasting “low” chances of a peace deal this year and warning that its government would struggle to hold the Taliban insurgency at bay if the US-led coalition withdrew support.
Biden’s decision would miss a May 1 deadline for withdrawal agreed to with the Taliban by his predecessor Donald Trump. The insurgents had threatened to resume hostilities against foreign troops if that deadline was missed. But Biden would still be setting a near-term withdrawal date, potentially allaying Taliban concerns.
“We will hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorists to threaten the US or its allies from Afghan soil. The Afghan government has made that commitment to us as well,” Biden said in a speech announcing the complete pullout of US troops before September 11. “We will ask other countries in the region to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India and Turkey.”
Notably not naming Iran, Biden said that the countries in the region “have a significant stake in the stable future” of Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke to US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken over the phone.
“During the conversation matters of mutual interest, regional security situation including latest developments in Afghan Peace Process and bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed,” the Pakistani military’s media wing said in a statement.
Bajwa reiterated Pakistan’s support for an Afghan led and Afghan-owned peace process “based on mutual consensus of all stakeholders.”


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

Updated 6 min 50 sec ago

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.