UK travel ban for Pakistani citizens driven by politics, not data — planning minister

Passengers arrive with lugagge at the Terminal 5 international arrivals hall at London Heathrow Airport in west London on February 14, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 03 April 2021

UK travel ban for Pakistani citizens driven by politics, not data — planning minister

  • Announcement comes just over a week before the start of Ramadan
  • Last month, British Pakistan Foundation said alarmingly high number of Pakistanis tested positive for coronavirus on arrival to UK

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s planning minister, Asad Umar, hinted on Saturday the UK government was playing politics instead of following data, a day after London put Pakistan on its ‘red list’ of countries and banned the entry of Pakistani citizens unless they are British or Irish nationals, or have residency rights. 

British Pakistanis form one of the largest expat communities in the UK, with numbers for population ranging at around 1.17 million. Days before the start of Ramadan, when many British Pakistanis travel to be with their families for the holy month and Eid, travelers from Pakistan have been told they will be denied entry and have to pay for expensive 10-day UK hotel quarantine at designated sites.

The UK announcement came as Pakistan’s National Command and Control Center (NCOC) for Covid-19 reported 5,234 new cases in the last 24 hours, with 83 deaths. 

“Every country has a right to take decisions to safeguard the health of their citizens. However the recent decision by UK government to add some countries including Pakistan on the red list raises legitimate questions whether choice of countries is based on science or foreign policy,” Umar tweeted Saturday morning, alongside a copy of a letter written by a British Pakistani parliamentarian to the UK foreign minister.

In the letter, MP Naz Shah said the UK government was “knowingly and consciously discriminating against Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora community,” whereas other countries, like France, Germany and India had far higher numbers of infections per 100,000 people.

Bangladesh, Kenya and the Philippines have also been put on the UK’s red list of countries.

Last month, in a series of tweets, the British Pakistan Foundation had suggested that there was “a potential risk” of Pakistan being placed on the quarantine list. 

“At present, Pakistan accounts for about 10% of all passengers coming into the UK with an alarmingly high number testing positive for coronavirus on arrival,” the Foundation said.

A spokesman for the UK’s transport department that reviews this list said: “The decision to add and remove countries from the red list is made by ministers informed by the latest scientific data and public health advice from a range of world-leading experts.”


Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin gold win at Commonwealth Games

Updated 08 August 2022

Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin gold win at Commonwealth Games

  • Nadeem’s throw of 90.18m was the biggest at the Games by a South Asian athlete
  • The 25-year-old beat world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who took silver 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis celebrated on Monday the historic win of javelin athlete Arshad Nadeem as he nabbed the sport’s top medal at the Commonwealth Games and became the first from the South Asian country to achieve the feat.

Nadeem snatched the title in a fifth-round throw of 90.18 meters, breaking a new record at the Games where he now holds the title of the biggest throw recorded by a South Asian athlete.

The 25-year-old beat world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who took silver on Sunday evening with a throw of 88.64 meters while Kenya’s Julius Yego took the bronze with an 85.70m throw.

Nadeem’s victory reverberated throughout Pakistan on Monday, as people took to social media to congratulate the athlete and celebrate his win.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Nadeem’s gold win was “amazing news” that brought pride to the country.

“Arshad Nadeem has done Pakistan proud,” Sharif wrote on Twitter. “His consistency, passion, & hard work hold lessons for our youth. Congratulations Arshad on your brilliant achievement."

Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said Nadeem had given an exceptional performance and was the “pride of the nation and our national hero.”

Nadeem, a poor boy from smalltown Khanewal had beaten all odds to become the first Pakistani in history to win javelin gold at the Commonwealth Games. He is one of nine children of a daily wage laborer and had shown great versatility as an athlete from a young age while dabbling in all kinds of sports at school, from cricket to football and badminton.
Though the family lacked financial means to encourage Nadeem’s enthusiasm for sports, the boy’s spirit earned him the support he needed, with his elder brothers working to help him build a career in sports, the family told Arab News in an interview last year. 

Nadeem caught the eye of Rasheed Ahmad Saqi when he was only 12 years old, who eventually became Nadeem’s first coach and mentor and trained him for javelin throw.

Nadeem won his first bronze medal representing Pakistan at the 2016 South Asian Games in India with a best throw of 78.33 meters. In 2019, at the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal, he won a gold medal with an 86.29 meters games record throw.

Pakistan cricket team captain Babar Azam took to Twitter to tell Nadeem “you made the nation proud.”

Pakistani musician Zuliqar Khan said Nadeem’s story is “a story of a champion.”

“A champion from Pakistan. I don’t remember a better example of perseverance in Pakistan sports.”

 

 

The president's office also conveyed congratulations.

 

 


In high-level military shuffle, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed moved from Peshawar to Bahawalpur Corps

Updated 57 min 12 sec ago

In high-level military shuffle, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed moved from Peshawar to Bahawalpur Corps

  • Gen Hameed was posted last year as corps commander in Pakistan's northwest
  • Before that, Gen Hameed served as head of ISI, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army said on Monday it was posting Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, the current Corps Commander Peshawar, to head the Corps in Bahawalpur.

Gen Hameed is widely considered close to ex-premier Imran Khan prime minister and was the head of the ISI, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, before he was moved to Peshawar last year.

“Lieutenant General Sardar Hassan Azhar Hayat posted as Commander Peshawar Corps,” the army’s media wing said. “Lieutenant General Faiz hamid posted as Commander Bahawalpur Corps.”

The Peshawar, or XI, Corps, is the only corps assigned in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and is currently stationed in the provincial capital of Peshawar. The Corps was established and quickly raised in 1975 to support administrative military operational units in the country's northwest bordering Afghanistan. The corps is widely known for its involvement in the Soviet–Afghan War.

After the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001 and the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan, the XI Corps became the main Pakistani formation involved in fighting in the country's tribal regions in the country's northwest. It also commands substantial forces of the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

Gen Hameed's posting from Peshawar comes less than a week after the US carried out a drone strike in neighbouring Afghanistan, killing al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a drone missile while he stood on a balcony at his home in Kabul. The strike has raised questions about whether Pakistan’s airspace was used and if the government or military were involved.

Last week, former director-general of the ISPR Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor was appointed corps Commander Quetta after the serving commander died in a helicopter crash.

The army is arguably the most influential institution in Pakistan, with the military having ruled the country for about half of its 75-year history since independence from Britain and enjoying extensive powers even under civilian administrations.


Ex-PM Khan to announce ‘future strategy’ at Rawalpindi rally on eve of Independence Day

Updated 08 August 2022

Ex-PM Khan to announce ‘future strategy’ at Rawalpindi rally on eve of Independence Day

  • Khan was ousted as PM in April in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence and has since been calling for early elections
  • Khan has held a rally before on August 14, the 2014 Azadi Movement that lasted from August 14 to December 17

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party of ex-premier Imran Khan has decided to hold a public gathering at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on August 13 at which the party chief would announce his “future strategy,” a senior leader said. 
Pakistanis celebrates 14 August each year to commemorate the day when Pakistan achieved independence and was declared a sovereign state following the end of the British Raj in 1947. 
Khan was ousted as PM in April in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence and has since been calling for early elections.
On Monday, PTI leader and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in Multan Khan would stage a rally in Rawalpindi.
“On 13 August, we are arranging a rally to seek haqeeqi azadi (real independence) in Rawalpindi,” the PTI leader said. “In that Imran Khan will announce his future strategy.”
The PTI has held a rally before on August 14, the 2014 Azadi Movement that lasted from August 14 to December 17. The march was held in opposition to then Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif over claims of systematic election-rigging by his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party in the 2013 general election.
 


In a first, authorities arrange jirga to mull environmental protection in northwest Pakistan

Updated 56 min 1 sec ago

In a first, authorities arrange jirga to mull environmental protection in northwest Pakistan

  • Officials in the country’s northern areas say domestic tourists throw plastic bottles at major destinations
  • The government also plans to improve road infrastructure in the region to make tourist resorts more accessible

KHAPLU: For the first time in the history of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region, the government arranged a grand jirga at a popular tourist destination, Fairy Meadows, to create environmental awareness among the local population over the weekend.

A lush green plateau located at the western edge of the Himalayas, Fairy Meadows is counted among the most picturesque tourist resorts in northern Pakistan that is located in Diamer district and offers the best northside view of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth tallest mountain.

“Fairy Meadows was only visited by foreign climbers and trekkers in the past who used to protect the environment,” Yasir Hussain, deputy director at the Gilgit-Baltistan tourism department, told Arab News on Sunday. “For the last few years, however, this place has also become popular with domestic tourists … [who] don’t normally take care of the environment like foreigners.”

“The jirga system is very strong in Diamer district,” he continued. “So, the gathering was arranged by the government to take people into confidence [regarding] plans and policies to protect the environment.”

He noted that much of the land was state-owned in Gilgit-Baltistan, though this was not the case in Diamer district where local residents owned private properties.

“Without taking the people or community into confidence,” he added, “the government cannot make any policy.”

Speaking to Arab News, Fiaz Ahmed, the deputy commissioner of Diamer district, said the government wanted to improve the infrastructure of tourist destinations in Gilgit-Baltistan. He informed that a high-level committee had been constituted by the region’s chief minister to maintain the beauty of Fairy Meadows.

“To promote ecotourism in the region, waste management and disposal are our first priority,” Ahmed said.

Asked about the issues raised during the jirga, he said that they ranged from plantation and protection of forests to provision of water and electricity to tourists.

Apart from that, the jirga also discussed the possibility of improving the road leading to Fairy Meadows.

A senior official of Gilgit-Baltistan’s environmental protection authority, Khadim Hussain, informed the jirga took place after a German mountaineer and photographer did a social media post wherein he raised concern about unplanned tourist activities in the region.

“There is no big issue of sanitation and solid waste management in the main area of Fairy Meadows,” he said. “However, there is usually a lot of waste on treks where people throw plastic bottles etc.”


Investigation team set up to probe 'propaganda' campaign against army following chopper crash

Updated 08 August 2022

Investigation team set up to probe 'propaganda' campaign against army following chopper crash

  • Military helicopter carrying senior commander and five others crashed during a flood relief operation last week, all onboard killed
  • Social media campaign targeted deceased officers, including top commander in Balochistan, hashtags launched against army

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Monday an online smear campaign against the military and its officers in the wake of an army helicopter crash would be investigated, as a team was set up by the government to probe the “negative propaganda.”

A Pakistani military helicopter carrying a senior commander and five others crashed on a mountain during a flood relief operation last Monday and all onboard were killed. Following the incident, an online smear campaign targeted the deceased officers and included hashtags against the military.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called the campaign “horrifying” and said it reflected that the minds of young Pakistanis were being poisoned. The army’s media wing also rejected the “regretful” social media trends, saying they had caused anguish among the families of those who had died as well as in the army as an institution.

On Sunday, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said it was forming a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the smear campaign.

“A joint inquiry team has been formed to investigate the issue of negative propaganda campaign on social media after the Pakistan Army helicopter crash,” the notification said.

Members of the team include Additional Director General Cyber Crime Muhammad Jafar, Director Cybercrime Waqaruddin Syed, Additional Director Ayaz Khan and Assistant Director Imran Haider

Speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, Sanaullah said the nation had “rejected” the propaganda against the victims of the helicopter crash.

“There is no segment of society which shares these sentiments,” the minister said.

Speaking to Geo News last week, ISPR Director-General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said the entire armed forces were “distressed” since the helicopter accident.

“The propaganda has caused immense pain, particularly to the families of the martyrs,” he said, urging the nation to unite against those spreading negative propaganda and rumors.

“Insensitive behavior is unacceptable and should be condemned on every platform.”