Military took action against personnel responsible for ex-Taliban spokesperson's escape — Pakistan army

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director general Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar speaks during a press conference at the Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Feb. 27, 2020. (Photo courtesy: ISPR/File)
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Updated 25 February 2021

Military took action against personnel responsible for ex-Taliban spokesperson's escape — Pakistan army

  • Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar says military took actions against army officials found responsible for allowing Ehsanullah Ehsan to escape
  • Says his country enjoys strong military ties with Saudi Arabia and trains local troops in the kingdom 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army said on Wednesday it had taken action against officials found responsible for the escape of former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson, Ehsan Ullah Ehsan, from an undisclosed detention facility last year. 

A high-profile local Taliban figure, Ehsan announced and justified a 2012 attack on Malala Yousafzai for campaigning for women’s education and also announced the TTP’s claim of responsibility for a horrific attack on a school in Peshawar in 2014. He escaped detention in January last year and announced his breakout on social media. 

“Ehsan Ullah Ehsan got away from our custody and there were some military personnel who facilitated his escape,” the head of the military media wing, Major General Babar Iftikhar, said while in a briefing to foreign journalists in Islamabad. 

Ehsanullah is accused in several terror attacks in Pakistan. After his surrender in 2017, local Geo News TV aired an interview he gave in custody in which he asserted that the intelligence services of Pakistan’s arch-rival, India, had been funding and arming Pakistani Taliban fighters.

The Pakistan army pledged to put Ehsan on trial but had not done so until the time he escaped custody in 2020. His whereabouts are uncertain.

Describing Ehsan’s escape as a “very serious matter,” Iftikhar explained for the first time how the TTP leader managed to find his way out of a high security environment, saying action was taken against those who facilitated him. He said it was not clear where Ehsan was currently hiding, though the country’s security forces were doing their best to capture him again. 

Asked about the fresh wave of militant violence in Pakistan, Iftikhar said several small militant organizations had unified recently and were being trained by hostile intelligence agencies in neighboring nations. 

Discussing the challenge of religious militancy, Iftikhar said that many small groups were trying to associate themselves with Daesh, but the group did not have an organized presence in Pakistan. 

He also said Pakistani law enforcement agencies had captured several militants belonging to the Iran-backed Zainabiyoun Brigade but Pakistan did not consider the militant outfit a major threat.

“We carried out very successful operations against all militant organizations and dismantled them,” he said. 

The military spokesperson said his country had extended a hand of peace to its eastern neighbor after Prime Minister Imran Khan formed his government in 2018 but did not receive an encouraging response from New Delhi. 

Replying to a question about the Saudi-Pakistan relationship, Iftikhar said his country enjoyed strong military-to-military terms with the kingdom and its teams in Saudi Arabia regularly trained local troops.

He also expressed satisfaction with the security dimension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects. 

“A lot of concentrated effort has been made by hostile elements to sabotage the corridor project,” the military spokesperson said. “We have beefed up its security and deployed an army division in Gwadar. Besides, Frontier Corps [paramilitary] provides security to Chinese projects as well.” 


Bahrain’s Gulf Air makes progress in delaying jet deliveries

Updated 26 min 58 sec ago

Bahrain’s Gulf Air makes progress in delaying jet deliveries

  • Operating at 50-60% of pre-pandemic levels
  • Seeks delays in some Boeing and Airbus planes

DUBAI: Bahrain’s Gulf Air has made good progress in its efforts to delay some Airbus and Boeing aircraft deliveries, its acting chief executive said on Wednesday.
The state-owned carrier has been seeking to push back the delivery schedule of some new jets amid a slump in global travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had to go renegotiate the delivery dates. We haven’t canceled anything,” Acting CEO Waleed Abdulhameed Al-Alawi told an online event organized by aviation consultancy CAPA.
“We have actually negotiated with the main suppliers Boeing and Airbus and we’ve got good progress with these two scenarios.”
Al-Alawi told Reuters in January the airline would receive some aircraft this year but was seeking delays in Airbus A320neo and Boeing 787 Dreamliner deliveries.
“At the moment no airline would be keen on receiving aircraft or accepting delivery flights to park these airplanes because of costs,” he told the CAPA event.
The state-owned carrier was currently operating at about 50 percent or 60 percent of its pre-pandemic levels, he said.


NATO forces will leave together from Afghanistan, Blinken says

Updated 14 April 2021

NATO forces will leave together from Afghanistan, Blinken says

  • NATO foreign and defense ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference

BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that it was time for NATO allies to withdraw from Afghanistan and that the alliance would work on an adaptation phase, after Washington announced plans to end America’s longest war after two decades.
“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.
NATO foreign and defense ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference.


Babar Azam’s incredible rise from tape-ball cricket to ODI apex

Updated 25 min 28 sec ago

Babar Azam’s incredible rise from tape-ball cricket to ODI apex

  • Pakistan captain Azam has ended Virat Kohli’s 1,258-day reign at top of MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings
  • Becomes only the fourth batsman from Pakistan to attain number one position in the latest weekly update

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan captain Babar Azam has ended Virat Kohli’s long reign at the top of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings, becoming only the fourth batsman from his country to attain number one position in the rankings, the International Cricket Council said on Wednesday.
From playing on the streets of Lahore to the top of the world, Azam has officially climbed a peak unreached by any Pakistani since Mohammad Yousuf.
Azam has attained a career high 865 points following a momentous series against South Africa, whom his side defeated 2-1 to grab 20 World Cup Super League points. He now leads Indian captain Kohli by eight points. 
“The Pakistan captain has overtaken Virat Kohli to become the No.1 batsman in the latest @MRFWorldwide ICC men’s ODI rankings,” the ICC said on Twitter. 

“Babar, a star of the ICC Under-19 Men’s Cricket World Cups in 2010 and 2012 and who has been playing ODIs since 2015, had started the series against South Africa at 837 rating points but moved up to 858 (ahead of Kohli) after his score of 103 in the first match. He dropped to 852 by the time of the last weekly rankings update with a score of 32 in the second ODI,” ICC said on its website. 
“By ending Kohli’s 1,258-day supremacy, Babar has emulated compatriots Zaheer Abbas (1983-84), Javed Miandad (1988-89), and Mohammad Yousuf (2003) as the number one ODI batsman. In Tests, Babar has attained a best of fifth position and is currently ranked sixth while in T20Is he is third but has been number one in the past.”
Responding to his new achievement, Azam said he felt “privileged and honored” to have joined the company of the shining stars of Pakistani cricket like Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad and Mohammad Yousuf.
“This is another milestone in my career, which will now require even more hard work and absolute consistency with the bat in order for me to hold on to the ranking for an extended period of time, like Sir Vivian Richards from January 1984 to October 1988 and Virat Kohli for 1,258 days,” Azam said. 
“I have also previously topped the T20I rankings, but the ultimate ambition and goal is to lead the Test rankings, which are the real testament and reward to a batsman’s calibre, reputation and skills. I understand to achieve this objective, I will not only have to perform consistently, but more importantly, against the top sides.
“I am looking forward to this challenge and remain confident I will be able to accomplish this target with the support of my team-mates and coaching staff. But at this stage, I will savour the moment as it has come almost 18 months after I was first appointed the white-ball captain and that too at the back of my performances that helped Pakistan become the first Asian side to win two ODI series in South Africa,” Azam said.
By 12, Azam was playing serious tape-ball cricket and at age 14 he had his first meaningful taste of failure in the sport as he was rejected from the national academy. It was only a setback, the ICC said, as a year later he would gain entry and be declared the country’s best Under-15 batsman.
By age 15 he had made his List A debut and by 16 he was a first-class cricketer for ZTBL. By the time he received his first ODI cap he already had six centuries and more than 2,000 List A runs at an average of 47.88 to his name.
“Nowadays, Azam’s place among ODI cricket’s finest players is unquestionable. An average of 56.83 and 13 centuries across just 80 matches will do that sort of thing,” the ICC said.
By September 2018 Azam passed 2,000 runs in ODI cricket, reaching the milestone in just 45 innings. Only one player has ever gotten there quicker and that is South African great Hashim Amla. Amla took just 40 innings.
In the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, Azam made history, scoring 474 runs at 67.61 to break Javed Miandad’s 1992 record for the most runs by a Pakistan batsman in a Cricket World Cup campaign.
“Still only 26 years old, Azam’s best years are still ahead of him,” the ICC said. “Given he boasts the third greatest ODI average (56.83) in history right now, that is a scary thought for opposition teams all around the world.”


Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip

Updated 14 April 2021

Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip

  • Prince Philip died at the age of 99
  • The royal family is observing two weeks of mourning

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II has returned to royal duties, four days after the death of her husband, Prince Philip.

The 94-year-old British monarch attended a retirement ceremony for a senior royal official on Tuesday, according to the Court Circular, the official record of royal engagements.

The royal family is observing two weeks of mourning for Philip, who died Friday at the age of 99. The palace has said members of the royal family will “undertake engagements appropriate to the circumstances” during the mourning period.

The queen attended a ceremony at Windsor Castle for Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel, who has retired as the royal household’s most senior official. He oversaw arrangements for the funeral of Prince Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, until handing over to his successor days before the duke’s death.

Philip’s funeral will take place Saturday at Windsor Castle, with attendance limited to 30 because of coronavirus restrictions.

Servicemen and women from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Air Force will take part in the funeral procession, and Philip’s coffin will be borne to St. George’s Chapel at the castle on a specially adapted Land Rover, which he designed himself.


Pakistan takes desperate measures to revive Belt and Road's port

Updated 14 April 2021

Pakistan takes desperate measures to revive Belt and Road's port

April 14: Nikkei Asia report by Adnan Aamir states that Pakistan's federal and regional governments are taking a series of actions, including giving the status of regional subcapital and promoting tourism, to revive the struggling town of Gwadar, whose port -- built and operated by the Chinese -- hardly receives ship calls.

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