Pakistan's special envoy to attend Afghan peace conference in Moscow

Participants attend the opening of the two-day talks of the Taliban and Afghan opposition representatives at the President Hotel in Moscow on February 5, 2019. (AFP/File)
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Updated 15 March 2021

Pakistan's special envoy to attend Afghan peace conference in Moscow

  • Moscow meeting to discuss a transitional government as part of an intra-Afghan peace deal
  • Taliban say no final decision yet on their participation in the peace conference hosted by Russia

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has been invited to participate in next week's Moscow meeting on the Afghan peace process, the foreign office confirmed on Sunday, as sources say Islamabad's special envoy for Afghanistan will lead the Pakistani delegation.

During the Moscow conference, which starts on Thursday, Afghan and Taliban leaders as well as representatives from China and the United States are expected to discuss a transitional power-sharing government as part of an intra-Afghan peace deal.

The power-sharing interim administration proposal for Afghanistan has been advocated by both the US and Russia and is intended to jump-start stalled talks in Doha, Qatar, between the Taliban and a team that includes Afghan officials on a political settlement to end decades of conflict.

"As for the consultations in Moscow, we have received the invitation," Pakistan's foreign office spokesperson Zaid Hafeez Chaudhri told Arab News.

Sources privy to the matter have confirmed that Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq, would lead the delegation.  

Sadiq is now in Tehran for talks on the Afghan peace process with Iranian officials.

"During his visit, Ambassador Sadiq will discuss the ongoing Afghan peace process with his Iranian interlocutors," Chaudhri said.

According to a Saturday evening tweet by Iran's deputy foreign minister for West Asia, Rasoul Mousavi, Sadiq will meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to “discuss developments in Afghanistan.”

It remains unclear whether Iran will also participate in the upcoming Moscow meeting.

It is also unclear whether the Taliban will arrive in Moscow. The group's political spokesperson, Mohammad Naeem, confirmed to Arab News on Sunday that they had received Russia's invitation, but a final decision has yet to be taken.

The Taliban have previously attended conferences in Russia and also visited Moscow in January, after the US announced to review its former administration's last year's agreement with the group on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.  

The Kabul government, meanwhile, is preparing its delegation, National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib confirmed on Saturday.

Besides government representatives and the Taliban, other Afghan leaders have been invited as well, Habib ur Rehamn Hekmatyar, son of Hizb-e-Islami chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, told Arab News as he confirmed his father's attendance.

He expects the Moscow conference to be more inclusive than Doha talks, as Afghan delegates would not only comprise those selected by President Ashraf Ghani's government.

"Ashraf Ghani had constituted a team of his own people for the Doha talks and sent them there who will follow his instructions," he said. "Many main sides, including Hizb-e-Islami and Jamiat-e-Islami, are not part of the Doha negotiations."

As talks in Doha have yielded little since their start in September last year and appear to have reached a deadlock, consultations are underway to host meetings in Turkey.

The United Nations office in Kabul has already started consultations for an Afghan peace conference in Turkey, after the UN's envoy for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, met with the Taliban and members of the Afghan government in Doha last week.

At least 18 killed in bus-car crash in northwestern Pakistan

Updated 10 sec ago

At least 18 killed in bus-car crash in northwestern Pakistan

  • Fatal road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed
  • Bad road infrastructure and use of unfit vehicles are other causes of frequent accidents

ISLAMABAD: At least 18 people were killed on Tuesday and several others were injured after a bus traveling from the northern Gilgit region to Rawalpindi had a head-on crash with a car, officials said.

Fatal road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed and roads, particularly in many rural areas, are in poor condition.

There have been a number of transport tragedies in Pakistan recently, including when more than 40 people were killed after a bus fell into a ravine and caught fire in the southern Pakistani province of Balochistan last month. Earlier this month, a head-on collision between a passenger bus and a speeding truck trailer near a tunnel in Pakistan’s northwestern Kohat District overnight killed at least 17 passengers, including women and children.

The latest crash happened in the Shatial region in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“A Gilgit to Rawalpindi bound bus met with an accident in the Shatial area of Kohistan at 715pm,” Fiaz Ahmad, deputy commissioner Diamer district in Gilgit-Baltistan, told Arab News over the phone.

“The accident took place when the bus collided with a car coming from the opposite direction.”

The official said 18 people had been killed, of whom 13 were from Gilgit-Baltistan and five were from Kohistan.

Ahmed said district administration, Rescue 1122 and hospital staff had taken part on the rescue mission and shifted all injured passengers to a nearby hospital in Chilas. 

Dildar Khan, a police chief in the area where the accident took place, told AP 22 people had died. 

Imam Shafi, a Gilgit-Baltistan Tourist Police officer who took part in the rescue operation, told Arab News there were 27 passengers in the bus and five in the car it collided with.

“All dead bodies and injured have been shifted to Chilas Hospital. Only one child is missing,” the policeman said. “Among the 13 from Gilgit-Baltistan who died, three were women.” 

An emergency was imposed at the District Headquarter Hospital Chilas.

“All doctors and paramedical staffs are on duty,” Dr. Mubashir Hassan, Health Director for Diamer Division, told Arab News on Wednesday morning from the emergency ward at the Chilas hospital.

“We will try our level best to provide all facilities for them and with all possible resources.”

Petroleum minister denies fuel shortage, says Pakistan has sufficient stock

Updated 7 min 14 sec ago

Petroleum minister denies fuel shortage, says Pakistan has sufficient stock

  • Musadik Malik admits the ‘danger’ of hoarding amid volatility of petroleum prices in international market
  • Minister says the government can take administrative measures against people rationing fuel in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: State Minister for Petroleum Dr. Musadik Malik dismissed reports of fuel shortage in Pakistan on Tuesday, saying the government was complying with the regulatory requirement of maintaining a substantial quantity of petrol and diesel in the country.

Malik issued the rebuttal during a conversation with a local news outlet amid reports that commuters were facing problems in the country’s most populous Punjab province where several petrol pumps had temporarily suspended their service.

“We held a meeting with the oil marketing companies in the morning,” he told Geo News. “Currently, the country has the stock of more than 20 days of petrol and more than 25 days of diesel.”

The minister asked the media to intimate the government about any artificial shortage created by owners of petrol pumps in any part of the country, saying action would be taken against such elements.

“In certain regions, there is a danger that people are hoarding since they believe that petrol prices are being increased on an international level,” he continued. “But we have got administrative measures that can be used to deal with such situations.”

Malik categorically denied that the country’s ongoing negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had anything to do with the prices of petroleum in the country.

He maintained the subject was not being discussed between the two sides, adding any fluctuation in fuel prices was due to the volatility in international market.

Pakistan is facing a major dollar liquidity crunch which has led the government to unofficially suspend import of various items, including essential goods, to save its foreign currency reserves that have hit an alarming level of $3 billion.

Under the circumstances, a nationwide power outage last month also led to speculations about fuel shortage in the country for power generation, though senior government officials denied the claim.

‘Mob attack’ on film set in Pakistan takes mainstream and social media by storm

Updated 14 min 2 sec ago

‘Mob attack’ on film set in Pakistan takes mainstream and social media by storm

  • Incident occurred on Monday evening during shoot of ‘Sajin Mahel,’ directed by Nabeel Qureshi and starring Hira Mani
  • Mani told Arab News armed men entered set in a “pre-planned” attack and beat up crew after director had a spat with neighbors

KARACHI: A “mob” attacked a film set this week while some of Pakistan’s most popular actors were shooting for an upcoming movie in Karachi, the actor in the leading role, Hira Mani, said, while a police report of the incident said five crew members were injured. 

The incident, which has taken Pakistani mainstream and social media by storm, occurred on Monday evening during the shoot of upcoming film ‘Sajin Mahel,’ directed by Nabeel Qureshi, and starring Mani, her husband Salman Saquib (popularly known as Mani) and Gul-e-Rana.

Mani said the attack happened after the film director got into a spat with neighbors who complained about noise from the shoot, which was taking place in a rented property in Karachi’s PIB Colony. An “armed mob” forcibly entered the house, she said, describing it as a “pre-planned” attack by people aiming to disrupt the shooting. 

“They manipulated the policemen sitting outside the premises [by telling them] that something inappropriate was taking place inside,” Mani told Arab News. “They were going to burn us, [they were] chanting ‘Allah O Akbar’.”

The attackers, according to Mani, were demanding to speak directly to Qureshi and the top actors, who were locked up for their protection in a room of the house by the owner, a man identified in a police complaint only by his first name, Shakir.

Calls to the police went unanswered, she added:

“They [attackers] had almost reached the cast when the [paramilitary] Rangers arrived and rescued us after almost an hour.”

According to a copy of the first information, or police, report (FIR) seen by Arab News, producer Ali Hussain said up to 50 people, many of them carrying sticks, barged into the house where the shoot was ongoing and beat up its owner, Shakir, who rents the property for film shoots. The attackers also allegedly beat up crew members and injured five, including one who was hit on the head with a pistol. 

The FIR said several pieces of equipment were stolen from the set, including a 2k light, bulbs, C-stands, avenger stand, 10kg jib weight, set pancake and cables and three mobile phones. 

Arab News heard a sound recording of the incident, shared by a member of the cast, in which women could be heard screaming and shouting. The sounds of blows being exchanged is also heard and Mani is frantically yelling to suspects that there were women and children in the house. 

Mani said three people had been arrested since the complaint was filed. She said this was not the first time that violence had ensued at this particular location, recalling a similar incident last year when Pakistani actor and comedian Yasir Hussain was directing the TV series, “Aik Thi Laila” at the spot.

Speaking to Arab News, Hussain complained that while Shakir rented out the property for large sums for Tv and film shoots, he did not take responsibility for controlling crowds.

During the shooting of “Aik Thi Laila” he said, uninvited entrants on the set fought with the producer when they were asked to leave. Over 100 people subsequently entered and attacked the crew, forcing the team to cancel the shoot twice. The actor said he couldn’t complain at the time since he wasn’t the show’s producer. 

“We wanted to wrap the shoot so we didn’t post any [Instagram] stories either,” Hussain said. “This is quite scary and this needs to end.”

Arab News could not reach the owner of the house, Shakir, or police for comment.

Pakistan PM postpones Ankara visit as Turkiye-Syria quake toll tops 8,300

Updated 08 February 2023

Pakistan PM postpones Ankara visit as Turkiye-Syria quake toll tops 8,300

  • Pakistan has sent relief goods to the two Middle Eastern states on commercial and military airliners
  • As rescue activities continue, time is running out for the thousands who are trapped in the rubble

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday postponed his visit to Ankara after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 southeastern provinces that were hit by a major earthquake that has so far claimed more than 8,300 lives in Syria and Turkiye.

The prime minister called for “tangible and timely material support” for Turkiye a day before while pointing out that Ankara had generously helped Pakistan in the wake of the 2005 earthquake and floods in recent years. He also established a relief fund for quake victims and urged well-off individuals to contribute.

Sharif decided to travel to Turkiye to express solidarity with its people and government while announcing to reschedule a national conference to discuss the security situation in his own country.

“PM visit is postponed due to [the] ongoing relief activities in Turkiye,” federal information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a brief message to the media on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, rescue activities continue in Syria and Turkiye after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake jolted the two countries earlier this week. According to World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, time is running out for the thousands injured and those still feared trapped.

Reports emerging from the two countries say thousands have taken refuge from rains, snow and aftershocks in mosques, schools and bus shelters after losing their apartments and houses.

Some estimates suggest that nearly 23 million people have been affected by the quake which will require significant relief and reconstruction activities in the coming days.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has already sent two planeloads of relief goods to Turkiye and Syria.

The country’s air force also said in a statement on Wednesday it had dispatched tents, blankets and other essential items on two C-130s to Turkiye to help its people.

In latest transport tragedy, 22 people killed in bus-car collision in Pakistan

Updated 08 February 2023

In latest transport tragedy, 22 people killed in bus-car collision in Pakistan

  • Fatal road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed
  • Bad road infrastructure and use of unfit vehicles are other causes of frequent accidents

PESHAWAR: A speeding bus collided with a car and plunged into a ravine in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 22 passengers and injuring 12 others, police said, the second such deadly accident in less than a week.

The bus was traveling to the garrison city of Rawalpindi from the Ghizer district in the north when the accident happened near Shatial village, 500 kilometers (30 miles) north of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said Dildar Khan, an area police chief.

He said rescuers transferred the dead and injured to a hospital, where some of them were listed in critical condition.

Last Friday, 17 people were killed in a head-on collision between a passenger bus and a speeding truck near a tunnel in the Kohat district in northwest Pakistan. On Jan, 29, another deadly accident happened in southern Pakistan where a bus crashed into a pillar and fell off a bridge, killing 40 people.

Deadly accidents are common in Pakistan due to poor road infrastructure and a disregard for traffic laws.