Pakistan asks UN to deploy 'protection force' for Palestinians against Israeli attacks

Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses a special United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York, US, on May 20, 2021. (Photo courtesy: United Nations)
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Updated 20 May 2021

Pakistan asks UN to deploy 'protection force' for Palestinians against Israeli attacks

  • Foreign Minister Qureshi calls upon UN General Assembly to hold Israel accountable for 'war crimes'
  • UN chief says ‘deeply shocked’ by continued air and artillery bombardment by Israeli forces in Gaza

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday urged the United Nations General Assembly to deploy an international protection force to safeguard Palestinians against Israeli aggression and take urgent steps to ensure a cessation of hostilities in the area.

Since the crisis began on May 10, Palestinian health officials say 228 people have been killed in Israeli aerial bombardments that have worsened Gaza’s already dire humanitarian situation. Israeli authorities put the death toll to date at 12 in Israel.

“We should deploy an international protection force that was called for in the General Assembly resolution ES10/20 and as demanded by the Islamic Summit Conference on 18 May 2018,” Qureshi said while addressing a special UNGA session in New York.

The foreign minister reached New York on Wednesday evening on a Palestine peace mission to attend a UNGA emergency meeting called by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League.

Qureshi called upon the General Assembly to take concrete steps to protect the people of Palestine and hold Israel accountable for its "war crimes."

“If the Security Council cannot agree to send the protection force, a coalition of the willing can be formed to provide at least civilian observers to monitor a cessation of hostilities and supervise the provision of humanitarian help to Palestinians,” he said. 

“Israel’s crimes against humanity should not escape accountability,” he added. “There should be no impunity for violation of international law.” 

So far, over 50,000 Palestinians have been rendered homeless in the Gaza Strip where they already have limited access to water, food and health services.

The foreign minister urged the international community to mobilize all possible humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian population in Gaza and other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Israel must open all access points to Gaza to ensure timely and urgent delivery of international assistance,” he said. “The voice of the Palestinian people cannot and will not be silenced.”

“It is appalling that the Security Council has been unable to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,” Qureshi said, adding that the Council had even failed to demand a cessation of hostilities.

“Those preventing the Council from doing so bear a heavy responsibility,” he added.

Qureshi said the international community must not fail the Palestinian people at such a critical juncture.

“Our first priority must be to halt the Israeli aggression,” he noted. “Let’s be clear: There is no military equivalence between the beleaguered and occupied Palestinian people … and the Israeli war machine, one of the most powerful in the world.”

“This is a war between a military occupier and an occupied people,” Qureshi said. 

The minister said there was a need to implement the UNGA and Security Council resolutions for a “viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian state with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital.” 

Earlier, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel and Palestinians to call an immediate ceasefire and pledged to launch a full humanitarian appeal for funding.

“The past ten days have witnessed a dangerous and horrific surge in deadly violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly Gaza, and in Israel,” Guterres told the special UNGA session. “I am deeply shocked by the continued air and artillery bombardment by the Israeli defense forces in Gaza.”


Pakistani ministries start implementing 2 percent employment quota for people with disabilities 

Updated 15 sec ago

Pakistani ministries start implementing 2 percent employment quota for people with disabilities 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani government departments have started implementing a 2 percent job quota for people with disabilities at all federal ministries, a senior official at the human rights ministry said on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch estimates that the number of people living with various intellectual and physical disabilities in Pakistan, a country of 220 million, varies from 3.3 million to 27 million. 

Pakistani law requires that 2 percent of people employed by an establishment be “disabled persons.” A Supreme Court ruling last year obliged the federal and provincial governments to take steps to realize equal participation of people with disabilities in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Pakistan ratified in 2011.

“On the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, establishment division has formally instructed all ministries, divisions, attach departments and commissions working under federal government to strictly implement 2 percent quota of disabled persons in jobs,” Human Rights Ministry director general Muhammad Arshad told Arab News on Wednesday.

“Work has been started to implement this by providing jobs to disabled persons in all federal government departments in Pakistan,” he said. “For this purpose, the government has also established a new council, Council for the Rights of Disabled Persons, which is working on it and following it with all federal ministries.”

Until now, the 2 percent job quota has been widely unimplemented, with only a small number of persons with disabilities employed by different government departments.

“The government passed a legislation in December 2020 which required every office and government building to have accessibility options for special people, but even that law has not been fully implemented,” rights activist Muhammad Atif Sheikh told Arab News.

He added that a major issue was the lack of data on how many Pakistanis lived with disabilities as such questions were not included in the census process in Pakistan.

“Data is the biggest challenge,” he said. “The latest census conducted in Pakistan in 2017 showed there were only 0.09 percent disabled people in the country since the authorities did not ask questions related to the issue.”

Saqlain Shah, a visually impaired graduate, has been applying for government jobs since 2018, but says that until now has not received any response.

“We get response from private organizations, but it is very hard to find a job opening at government departments, he said. “Officials only respond when we apply for low-income jobs but they mostly remain silent when we apply for higher positions.”


Pakistan can be kings again despite India’s IPL riches, says Nazar 

Updated 21 October 2021

Pakistan can be kings again despite India’s IPL riches, says Nazar 

  • Starting in 2008, a year after the inaugural T20 World Cup, the IPL ushered in a new era of white-ball cricket 
  • Pakistan once had a far better head-to-head record against India who played catch up with their arch-rivals from 2000 onwards 

DUBAI: Former Pakistan all-rounder Mudassar Nazar insists his country will once again be the kings of Asian cricket despite India’s rise as world beaters on the back of the riches of the IPL. 
Pakistan were kings of the sub-continent from the mid-1980s to 1990s with their on-field brilliance under Imran Khan, who led them to the 1992 World Cup, before India turned the tables. 
“I don’t think Pakistan has changed. It is India who have changed,” Nazar told AFP ahead of the eagerly-awaited India-Pakistan clash at the Twenty20 World Cup in Dubai on Sunday. 
“With the advent of the IPL they have used the money really, really well. If you look at the domestic competition in India, look at all the associations, how well they are organizing their cricket. 
He added: “Everybody has got their own stadium, their own academies, school cricket, state cricket. Cricket is thriving in India. 
“But the people who have been consistently doing well have been England and Australia...India is in the forefront and among the three best sides in the world.” 
Starting in 2008, a year after the inaugural T20 World Cup, the IPL ushered in a new era of white-ball cricket that witnessed the game break new ground in viewership and fan base.

The IPL emerged as the world’s richest T20 league with its brand value estimated at $6.7 billion in 2019 by the Duff and Phelps financial consultancy.

At the same time, Pakistan was becoming a no-go zone for international cricket following the 2009 terror attack on the visiting Sri Lanka team.
“The BCCI have been very clever in how they used the IPL money. Indian cricket was powerful before that but since then it has seen a lot of consistency,” said Nazar. 
“They have got all the areas covered. You talk about fast bowling, you talk about spinners, fielding, the physical side, it’s a powerhouse. They seem to be getting top class batsmen every season. At the moment they are looking very formidable.”

But Nazar remains hopeful that the Pakistan Super League (PSL) — the nation’s premier T20 tournament — and new management will revive the game.

“It is also a matter of cycles. One decade we could be better than the rest of the world and then somebody else catches up,” said Nazar, who played 76 Tests between 1976 and 1989 with a batting average of over 38. 
He also sees a bright future under new PCB chairman Ramiz Raja.
“Things have started to improve with the PSL, but it will take time. It took time for India to revive.” 
“There is no club cricket and there is hardly any state cricket, so that’s a stumbling block. 
“But now with the new management coming in, Ramiz is a former cricketer and I think he will shape things better, put us on the right path and in the next couple of years probably we will be as strong as we used to be.” 
Pakistan once had a far better head-to-head record against India who played catch up with their arch-rivals from 2000 onwards. 
Nazar, who had been part of that strong Pakistan set-up, said the national team will someday turn a corner and notch up their first win against India in a World Cup. 
“When we were playing we always had the edge and toward the end of my career we won most games against India than we lost,” said the 65-year-old Nazar. 
“It needs somebody to come up with some brilliance. Somebody has a damn good game. Somebody has a decent century and bowls a decent spell and all of a sudden the tables will turn.” 


Boycott calls add to India-Pakistan cricket tensions ahead of World Cup clash in Dubai

Updated 20 October 2021

Boycott calls add to India-Pakistan cricket tensions ahead of World Cup clash in Dubai

  • India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai which it blamed on Pakistan
  • Indian atheletes say ‘sports and politics should not be mixed’ and the World Cup match between the two countries should go on

Dubai: Cricket tensions between India and Pakistan have been heightened by boycott calls in India ahead of their T20 World Cup clash on Sunday.
A series of killings in the disputed Kashmir region has set off the anger, even though the Indian board has insisted the national team cannot withdraw from the game.
Decades of bitter rivalry between the neighbors often clouds their cricket encounters. India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai which India blamed on Pakistan.
Now they only play each other in international events. The last meeting was at the 50-over World Cup two years ago but even that was at the center of boycott calls.
The killings of 11 migrant workers and minority Hindus and Sikhs in Indian-administered Kashmir have led to the latest demands made in India, which frequently accuses Pakistan of backing Kashmir militant groups. The hashtag #BlacklistPakistan was trending on Twitter Wednesday.
Rajeev Shukla, the Board of Control for Cricket in India vice president, said earlier that the country had a contractual obligation to take part.
“We strongly condemns the killings. However, under the International Cricket Council’s commitments, you can’t refuse to play any one (game),” Shukla told Indian media.
A cabinet minister, Giriraj Singh, had also urged the government to consider intervening to stop the match.
“I think if relations are not good, then this should be reconsidered,” Singh said when questioned about the match. Other politicians have also joined the calls.
However, India’s badminton great Prakash Padukone said, “sports and politics should not be mixed and according to me it (the India-Pakistan match) should go on.”
India was also urged to boycott the 2019 World Cup game against Pakistan because of a Kashmir suicide bomber attack in February of that year in which more than 40 troops were killed.
Pakistan denied any role in the assault but the two countries came to the brink of war. India won the game which went ahead in June 2019.
India and Pakistan last played a bilateral series in 2013 during a brief thaw in their rivalry.
The two countries have fought two wars over Kashmir — divided between the two nations — since their independence in 1947.


Bomb hits security vehicle in northwest Pakistan, killing four

Updated 20 October 2021

Bomb hits security vehicle in northwest Pakistan, killing four

  • The attack happened in Bajaur, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan
  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack, though suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban based in Afghanistan

PESHAWAR: A roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying security forces in a former stronghold of local militants in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing four, police said.
The attack happened in Bajaur, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The area served as a base for the Pakistani Taliban until a few years ago, when the army said it cleared the region of insurgents. But the violence has continued there.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack.
Senior police officer Abdul Samad Khan said two police officers and two soldiers were killed in the attack. He said troops launched a search operation in the region to find those who orchestrated the attack.
Khan refused to speculate on who could be behind the attack.
But suspicion fell on Pakistan’s own Taliban who have been emboldened by the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where thousands of Pakistani militants are still believed to be hiding.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,400-kilometer (1,500-mile) internationally recognized border known as the Durand Line, which was drawn in the 19th century when the British dominated South Asia. Kabul has never recognized the boundary.
Before the the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan often accused each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along the porous frontier.


At Moscow meet, Pakistan urges global powers to continue economic engagement with Afghanistan

Updated 20 October 2021

At Moscow meet, Pakistan urges global powers to continue economic engagement with Afghanistan

  • Ambassador Sadiq asks world to unfreeze Afghanistan assets to avert economic meltdown
  • Pakistan advocates enhanced cooperation with Afghanistan to address challenges such as global terrorism

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday urged the international community to continue its economic engagements with Afghanistan to prevent another humanitarian disaster in the region, adding it was imperative in this context to unfreeze the Afghan financial assets parked in other countries.
Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq, highlighted the issue while addressing a major international conference in Moscow that brought together officials from various regional countries.
The international community froze nearly $10 billion of Afghanistan’s financial assets in other countries after the fall of Kabul on August 15 since the money was viewed as a key instrument to mount political pressure on the Taliban.
Sadiq said in a Twitter post on Wednesday he proposed three “broad contours of engagement with Afghanistan” while speaking at the Moscow forum.
These included “extending urgent humanitarian support to Afghanistan, to remain economically engaged to [avert] financial meltdown [by] de-freezing of Afghanistan’s foreign assets … [and] enhance cooperation [with Kabul] to address common challenges, such as combatting terrorism, trans-national crime and border management,” he wrote on the social media platform.


Sadiq said the “international community must not abandon Afghanistan at this critical juncture.”
Meanwhile, Russia stepped up pressure on the Taliban to create an inclusive administration during the conference which was also attended by China, Iran, India and Central Asian countries.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by Reuters as saying that he regretted the US absence from the talks, the biggest international meeting on the region since the Taliban victory in August.
Russia previously said it was not a rush to recognize the Taliban, as officials in Moscow noted the former Afghan rebel faction should fulfil its political commitments on human rights and political inclusivity to the world at large.
The Taliban deputy prime minister, Abdul Salam Hanafi, told the forum that “isolating Afghanistan is in no one’s interest.”
He added the Taliban had moved as quickly as possible on opening up their government and guaranteeing rights to women, reported Reuters, while adding that the Afghan faction did not represent a threat to any other country.