Pakistan says 'happy to host' SAARC summit subject to conditions

Flags of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries flutter outside the venue of the SAARC summit in Islamabad, 01January 2004. (AFP/ File)
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Updated 10 April 2021

Pakistan says 'happy to host' SAARC summit subject to conditions

  • Foreign Office spokesperson says onus now on India to create environment for Kashmir oriented talks
  • Says fate of this year’s summit ‘hangs in balance’

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan foreign office on Friday said it was ‘happy to host’ Indian and other regional leaders at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) scheduled for October, but only if ‘artificial obstacles’ were removed, in a veiled reference to New Delhi.
The original 19th SAARC summit was to be held in Islamabad in 2016, but was boycotted by Indian PM Narendra Modi in the wake of the Uri militant attacks. Following this, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka also pulled out, which led to the regional summit’s postponement.
“Pakistan considers SAARC an important organization for enhancing regional cooperation. As we have ascertained earlier, whenever artificial obstacles created in the way of SAARC summit are removed, we will be happy to host,” Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry told a press briefing on Friday.
He further said the onus was now on India to create a conducive environment for result-oriented talks between the two countries.
“We believe that durable peace, security and development in the region hinge on peaceful resolution of the long-standing Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” the spokesman said.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, and the disputed Himalayan region has been the focus of an increased flare-up between the two countries since 2019.
On Aug. 5, 2019, Modi’s government took away Jammu & Kashmir state’s special privileges, provoking anger in the region and especially in neighboring Pakistan.
Jammu & Kashmir was until then the only Muslim-majority state in mainly Hindu India.
“The spirit of the SAARC Charter is violated when a member state casts the shadow of its bilateral problems on the multilateral forum for regional cooperation,” Pakistan had said in 2016 in response to India’s pull-out from the summit.
For now, the FO spokesman said, the fate of this year’s SAARC summit ‘hangs in the balance.’


Proud to plant Pakistan's flag atop Mount Everest — Shehroze Kashif

Updated 12 May 2021

Proud to plant Pakistan's flag atop Mount Everest — Shehroze Kashif

  • Shehroze Kashif, 19, on Tuesday became the youngest Pakistani to climb the world’s highest peak
  • Kashif started climbing difficult mountainous terrains when he was just 11 years old

KHAPLU, GHANCHE: Shehroze Kashif, the youngest Pakistani to summit Mount Everest, says it was his duty to plant his country’s green flag at the top of the world.

The 19-year-old from Lahore reached the peak of the world’s highest mountain located in Nepal on Tuesday, as a part of Seven Summit Treks Everest Expedition 2021.

“It’s our duty to fly our flag wherever we can, whether it’s a mountain or other place,” Kashif told Arab News over the phone from Everest base camp on Wednesday. “Wherever you can, fly your green flag high.”

In this undated photo, Shehroze Kashif, a 19-year-old climber from Lahore, is seen holding a flag of Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Alpine Adventure Guides)

With members of his expedition, the young climber known as “The Broad Boy” after summiting 8,047-meter Broad Peak in the Karakoram two years ago, Kashif climbed Mount Everest (8,849 meters) in four days.

Having already scaled a number of tall and difficult peaks, Kashif started climbing difficult mountainous terrains when he was just 11 years old.

In his first video message after the Everest summit, he said: “Alhamdulillah, Pakistan is on Everest. Without the support from Pakistan, this project was not possible. Thanks all of you for your support. I am coming soon to Pakistan.”

He thanked his family, friends and everyone who helped him for “the love, prayers and support” he had received.

Kashif’s achievement was welcomed by Pakistanis, including President Arif Alvi who took to Twitter to congratulate him on becoming the youngest Pakistani to scale the world’s highest peak.

“We are proud of you. I remember your passionate intention to do so when you visited me in Presidency in Feb. I wish you good luck in the future, now that you have Mt Everest in the bag,” the president said.

Previously, Samina Baig was the youngest Pakistani who summited the world’s tallest peak. 

A high-altitude climber, Baig became the first Pakistani woman to climb Everest in 2013 when she was only 21 years old.
 


‘We stand with Palestine,’ PM Khan says as Israel escalates airstrikes on Gaza

Updated 12 May 2021

‘We stand with Palestine,’ PM Khan says as Israel escalates airstrikes on Gaza

  • More than 48 people, including 14 children, have been killed by Israeli missiles in the Gaza Strip
  • Tensions follow Israeli attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque and attempts to expel Palestinians from their houses in Jerusalem

ISLAMABAD: “We stand with Palestine,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday, as Israel has intensified airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

More than 48 Palestinians, including 14 children, have been killed and 304 wounded by Israeli missiles fired on the Gaza Strip since Monday, according to Gaza health authorities. In response to the airstrikes, Hamas, which controls Gaza, fired rockets into Israel.

The violence escalated after Israeli forces stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for a third consecutive day on Monday, firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and stun grenades at Palestinian worshippers gathered at the third holiest site in Islam in the final days of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Pakistan has since condemned the Israeli attacks on Gaza and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

On Wednesday morning, Khan took to Twitter to say: “I am PM of Pakistan and #WeStandWithGaza #WeStandWithPalestine.”

Tensions in Jerusalem and other Palestinian territories follow recent attempts by Israeli forces to forcibly expel Palestinians from their houses in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem and hand over their properties to ultra-extreme Jewish settlers.


Eid Al-Fitr: Pakistan’s moonsighting committee to meet in Islamabad today

Updated 12 May 2021

Eid Al-Fitr: Pakistan’s moonsighting committee to meet in Islamabad today

  • The country’s Ruet-e-Hilal Committee will be working with the science ministry and use its data to sight the Shawwal crescent
  • Saudi Arabia has already announced that Thursday will be the first day of Eid Al-Fitr in the kingdom

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, which announces the sighting of the new moon, will meet in the federal capital on Wednesday to determine the beginning of Eid Al-Fitr in the country. 
Last year, the committee’s newly appointed chairman Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad agreed with the government for the first time to work together with the science ministry and use its data for the sighting of the moon.
The beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan along with Eid holidays and Shiite mourning month of Muharram are determined by moonsighting in Pakistan for which the country has set up a committee of religious scholars.
The use of technology to determine the beginning of Muslim months according to the Islamic lunar calendar has largely remained a contentious issue among conservative clerics who emphasize the necessity of physical sighting of the moon.
The Saudi Royal Court has already announced that Eid Al-Fitr will be celebrated in the kingdom on Thursday. 
It is likely that Pakistan will begin its Eid celebrations on Friday.


Pakistan reports lowest number of coronavirus cases since March 16

Updated 12 May 2021

Pakistan reports lowest number of coronavirus cases since March 16

  • The country’s National Command and Operation Center has requested people to organize Eid prayers in open spaces to prevent the spread of the virus
  • PM Khan has also urged people to take all necessary precautions during Eid holidays to contain the third wave of the pandemic

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reported less than 3,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, its lowest single-day number since March 16.
According to the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), which oversees Pakistan’s response to the pandemic, the country had 2,869 new COVID-19 cases and 104 related deaths in the last 24 hours.


Pakistan has reported 867,438 confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic emerged in the country in February 2020 and lost 19,210 lives to COVID-19.
The country announced a new set of restrictions earlier this month which included closure of all tourist resorts between May 8 and 16 to mitigate the impact of the third wave of the contagion.
Meanwhile, the NCOC urged people on Tuesday to organize Eid prayers in open spaces and follow strict health safety protocols.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also appealed to the nation to take all necessary precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus during the Eid holidays.
“I request you to follow the standard operating procedures and particularly use face masks,” he said in a statement. “Take care of your elderly to avoid lockdown.”


Pakistan, OIC strongly condemn Israeli airstrikes on Gaza

Updated 12 May 2021

Pakistan, OIC strongly condemn Israeli airstrikes on Gaza

  • Urge the international community to put an end to ‘flagrant violation of human rights’ of Palestinians
  • More than 38 Palestinians, including children, have been killed in the attacks by Israeli troops in recent days

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have condemned Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 35 people, including children, and left dozens injured since Monday.
The violence escalated after Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque – Islam’s third holiest site – attacking Palestinian worshippers using rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas over the weekend.
“This is yet another reprehensible action during the holy month of Ramadan, following the increased restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of Palestinians and the attacks in and outside Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday night.
It added that the indiscriminate use of force by Israeli forces against defenseless Palestinians “defies all humanitarian norms and human rights laws.” 
“Pakistan calls upon the international community to put an end to the blatant use of force and flagrant violation of human rights of the Palestinian people,” the statement said.
It added that establishing a “viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine,” based on internationally agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders, and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, is the “only sustainable guarantee for peace in the region.”
Tensions escalated in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem over the weekend after Israeli forces tried to evict an entire Palestinian community and hand over their properties to ultra-extreme Jewish settlers.
After convening a virtual emergency session on Tuesday to discuss the “aggression by Israel,” the OIC said that it “condemns in the strongest terms the repeated attacks by the Israeli occupation authorities against the Palestinian people.”
It also condemned “the Israeli occupation forces’ continuation of their colonial programs – building settlements, attempting to confiscate Palestinian properties, forceful eviction of Palestinians from their land.” 
The OIC also demanded that “relevant international actors,” including the United Nations General Assembly, should implement resolutions and recommendations and “activate the necessary mechanisms to stop these violations.”