Pakistan says will ensure writ ‘at any cost’ as religious party’s protests escalate

Paramilitary soldiers patrol a blocked street while supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party protest against the arrest of their leader in Lahore on April 13, 2021. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 14 April 2021

Pakistan says will ensure writ ‘at any cost’ as religious party’s protests escalate

  • Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan is holding protests since Monday when it’s chief was arrested for threatening government over French cartoons
  • Protesters beat a policeman to death in Lahore, TLP says at least seven supporters dead and dozens injured in clashes with law enforcement

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Pakistan’s interior minister on Wednesday said the government would ensure “the writ of the state at any cost” after nationwide protests by a religious party entered the third day and one policeman was beaten to death and dozens of policemen and protesters were injured in towns across the nation.
Demonstrations erupted in major Pakistani cities and quickly turned violent after Saad Rizvi, the head of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) religious party, was arrested on Monday. 
The government has already given a go-ahead for paramilitary troops to be deployed in major urban centers to quell protests. 
“The writ of the state must be ensured at any cost,” Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was quoted as telling law enforcement agencies while chairing a meeting to review the violence. 
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, the secretary interior and other top government officials, including the police chiefs of Punjab and Islamabad, were present at the meeting. 
“Strict action will be taken against those taking law into their own hands,” the interior minister warned. 
The participants of the meeting also paid tribute to the policemen who had laid down their lives in the line of duty. 
On Sunday, Rizvi had threatened the government with protests if it did not expel France’s envoy to Islamabad over blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Rizvi has called on the government to honor what he said was a commitment made to his party in February to expel the French envoy before April 20 over the publication in France of depictions of the Prophet (pbuh), which has enraged Muslims around the world. 
The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan says it had only committed to debating the matter in parliament. 
“Troops of Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) are required with immediate effect till the request of de-requisition,” the government of Punjab said in a notification. 
Rangers would be deployed in the cities of Rahim Yar Khan, Sheikhupura, Chakwal and Gujranwala, the circular said. 
In a press conference on Tuesday evening, science and technology minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said “no group or party must even think of dictating the government or the state … If a state allows this, then it will disintegrate and there will be chaos.” 
He added: “Every group has a right of protest and we are ready to hold talks [with TLP] if they present their demands in a democratic way.” 
In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, TLP told the government: “You will have to expel the French ambassador under all costs … The country will remain jammed until the French ambassador is expelled.” 
In a separate statement, TLP said its protests would go on until Rizvi was released. 

ARMED PROTESTERS 
Lahore police spokesperson Rana Arif told the daily Dawn newspaper protesters had beaten a police constable to death in Lahore’s Shahdara area on Tuesday, as a result of which a police case had been registered against TLP leaders and supporters. Police have also registered a case against Rizvi on terrorism and other charges, Arif said. 
“Over 300 policemen in Punjab, including 97 in Lahore, had sustained injuries, many of them seriously, after violent protesters attacked them with clubs, bricks and firearms,” Dawn reported. “The Gujrat district police officer and Kharian Deputy superintendent of police were among the injured.” 
“Hundreds of protesters and policemen were injured and thousands of TLP activists and supporters were arrested and booked for attacking law enforcement personnel and blocking main roads and highways,” Dawn added, saying four people, including a policeman, had been killed. 
Police said four policemen had been shot by armed TLP protesters, and the use of firearms by demonstrators had taken law enforcement agencies by surprise. 
“In Lahore alone, four policemen were shot at and injured by the armed men of the TLP in the Shahpur Kanjran area. Similarly, two police constables were shot at and injured in Faisalabad,” Dawn reported, adding: 
“Two video clips from Lahore in this regard showed policemen, Imran and Aslam, being rushed to a hospital with bullet wounds. In another video clip, an on-duty policeman was seen calling for help to dispatch more force, saying they had come under armed attack by the protesters in Shahpur Kanjran.” 
“The TLP armed men opened straight fire on the police and our four constables were injured,” Lahore DIG (operations) Sajid Kiani told reporters on Tuesday evening. 
Under a standing order, he said, police had been deployed unarmed and allowed only to use anti-riot gear against protesters. “But it shocked us that the TLP men used guns against the anti-riot force,” Kiani said. 
Giving one example, Kiani said when police reached Shahpur Kanjran to clear the national highway, announcements were made in nearby mosques urging TLP followers to take on police. 
“Within 10 minutes, some 200 people joined those already present and attacked police,” he said, adding that Lahore police had lodged 19 cases against protesters and cleared the areas of Shahdara, Imamia Colony, Thokar Niaz Baig, Babu Sabu and some parts of Ring Road by Tuesday evening. 
Police also conducted an operation in the Chungi Amar Sidhu area to rescue Model Town SP (operations) Dost Mohammad Khosa and five other policemen from protesters holding them hostage at a power grid station. 
The Shahdra and Thokhar areas of Lahore also turned into battlefields after hundreds of TLP supporters took several policemen hostage. 
In Shahdara, a constable died due to severe head and chest injuries after protesters tortured him with clubs, police said. 
Police said TLP activists had occupied and blocked 22 main roads, intersections and areas of Lahore, while reports of violence had also come from Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, Rahim Yar Khan, Sahiwal and Gujrat. 
Reports from other parts of Punjab suggested TLP supporters had occupied over 100 points, roads and major intersections of various cities of the province. 
Over 1,400 activists of the TLP have been arrested across Punjab, Punjab police spokesperson told Dawn, saying Punjab police had launched major operations, cleared nearly 60 roads and areas, and registered multiple police cases against supporters, representatives and leaders of the TLP. 
Speaking to Arab News, Muhammad Ali, a spokesperson of the TLP in Karachi, said at least six workers of the party had died and a large number were wounded due to firing by law enforcement agencies. Hospital and rescue sources only confirmed two deaths. 
In a statement released on Tuesday, TLP said seven of its supporters had been killed in police firing, but the figures could not be independently verified. 
HISTORY OF PROTESTS 
Saad Rizvi became the leader of the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party in November after the sudden death of his father, Khadim Hussein Rizvi. 
Tehreek-e-Labiak and other religious parties denounced French President Emmanuel Macron since October last year, saying he tried to defend caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as freedom of expression. 
Macron’s comments came after a young Muslim beheaded a French school teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in class. The images had been republished by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to mark the opening of the trial over the deadly 2015 attack against the publication for the original caricatures. That enraged many Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere who believe those depictions are blasphemous. 
Rizvi’s party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 federal elections, campaigning to defend the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam. It also has a history of staging protests and sit-ins to pressure the government to accept its demands. 
In November 2017, Rizvi’s followers staged a 21-day protest and sit-in after a reference to the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was removed from the text of a government form. 


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.”