Militants kill soldier near airport in southwestern Pakistan

Security personnel of Pakistan's Frontier Corps patrol in the southwestern province of Balochistan on September 16, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 18 June 2021

Militants kill soldier near airport in southwestern Pakistan

  • No group immediately claimed responsibility but previous attacks have been blamed on small separatist groups
  • Although Pakistan’s military says it has quelled insurgency in Balochistan, isolated attacks on troops have continued

QUETTA: Suspected militants opened fire on troops at a security post near an airport in southwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing a soldier before fleeing the scene, the military said.
The attack happened in the Turbat district in Balochistan province, a military statement said. Security forces have launched a search operation in the region to trace and arrest the attackers, it added. The slain soldier was identified as Aqeel Abbas.
No group immediately claimed responsibility but previous such attacks have been blamed on small separatist groups that have been carrying out a long-running insurgency demanding independence from the central government in Islamabad. The Pakistani Taliban and the Daesh group also have a presence in Baluchistan.
Although Pakistan’s military says it has quelled insurgency, isolated attacks on troops have continued.


New Zealand to tour Pakistan for 1st time since 2003 

Updated 6 min 25 sec ago

New Zealand to tour Pakistan for 1st time since 2003 

  • International tours to Pakistan have been affected by concerns over player safety 
  • In 2002, New Zealand abandoned Pakistan test series after suicide bomb attack outside its Karachi hotel

ISLAMABAD: New Zealand will tour Pakistan for the first time in 18 years when it plays three one-day internationals and five Twenty20 matches beginning in September. 
New Zealand last toured Pakistan in 2003 for a five-match ODI series while the tourists last played a test match in Pakistan in 2002. 
International tours to Pakistan have been affected by concerns over player safety. In May 2002, New Zealand abandoned its test series in Pakistan after a suicide bomb attack outside their Karachi hotel. In 2009, the Sri Lanka national team’s bus was attacked near Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore. 
“With leading cricket playing countries resuming their tours to Pakistan in 2019 . . . the series against New Zealand will prove to be a catalyst in rejuvenating our talented youngsters while attracting new fans to the game that has the most passionate following in the country,” Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Wasim Khan said in a statement on Thursday. 
With the T20 World Cup scheduled for the United Arab Emirates in October, Khan said New Zealand Cricket had accepted PCB’s request to play five T20s. 
“These (matches) will not only provide extra games to both the countries as part of their T20 World Cup preparations, but will also allow New Zealand players to spend extra days in Pakistan, familiarize with our culture and enjoy our hospitality,” Khan said. 
Rawalpindi will host the three ODIs on Sept. 17, 19 and 21 while Lahore will host all the five Twenty20s in between Sept. 25 and Oct. 3. 
New Zealand will arrive on Sept. 11 and after remaining in room isolation until Sept. 14 it will have two days of practice and an intra-squad match. 
“We’re very much looking forward to returning to Pakistan for the start of their home international season,” NZC Chief Executive David White said in the statement. “It’s great that, after such a difficult time for Pakistan, international cricket is again being played in the country.” 
The PCB has termed 2021-22 cricketing season as a “bumper” year with New Zealand tour followed by England’s two Twenty20s in Pakistan before the T20 World Cup. West Indies is expected to tour Pakistan in December while Australia will undertake a full tour to Pakistan in next February and March. 
The ODI series is part of ICC’s Super League with Pakistan having 40 points from nine games and New Zealand won all its three ODIs. The seven top-ranked teams from the Super League and the World Cup host India will progress directly for the World Cup in 2023. 


Outcry after suspect in Noor Mukadam murder taken to Islamabad hospital after headache complaint

Updated 04 August 2021

Outcry after suspect in Noor Mukadam murder taken to Islamabad hospital after headache complaint

  • Doctors at PIMS say Zahir Jaffer was brought in on Wednesday afternoon for brief checkup, blood pressure and temperature were normal
  • Social media erupts in outcry over “special treatment” given to Jaffer because he came from a wealthy family and was a US national

ISLAMABAD: Zahir Zakir Jaffer, the key suspect in the grisly July 20 murder of Noor Mukadam, was taken to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad on Wednesday afternoon after he complained he had a headache, doctors at the hospital said, as social media erupted in outcry over special privileges for the wealthy US national.

Mukadam, the daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat, was found beheaded at a residence in Islamabad's upscale F-7/4 sector on July 20 in a case that has sparked public outrage and grabbed media attention unlike any other recent case.

Waseem Khawaja, a doctor at PIMS, confirmed to Arab News that Jaffer was brought to the hospital on Wednesday but discharged after a brief checkup.

"Zahir Jaffer was brought to the PIMS emergency room today afternoon for a checkup," Khawaja said. "He was checked for a headache and his blood pressure and temperature were also noted, which were found to be normal.”

The doctor added: “Nothing to be worried about, he was found to be in good health.”

Another doctor at the hospital, Deputy Executive Director Dr Zulfiqar Ghauri, also confirmed the news.

Pakistan’s local media first reported on the incident quoting unnamed sources, unleashing widespread condemnation from social media users who said Jaffer was being given special treatment because he belonged to the privileged elite society of Pakistan and was a US national.

“Unless every single prisoner in the Pakistani penal system goes to PIMS when they have a headache, this is a sick abuse of power,” author Fatima Bhutto wrote on Twitter. “Zahir Jaffer getting all the privileges of his wealth and influence in jail after his heinous crime is outrageous.”

 

 

“Is this facility available to the rest of the accused and prisoners as well or is it available only to rich accused?” digital and women’s rights activist Nighat Dad asked.

 

 

“Jail authorities will conveniently allow disadvantaged, under trial prisoners die in Jail when suffering from an ailment. You need to have deep pockets to get VIP treatment in jail. Let that sink in,” wrote Khadija Siddiqui, a young Pakistani law student who was stabbed 23 times in broad daylight by a former friend, who was later convicted for the crime.

 

 

Jaffer was arrested on the day he murdered Mukadam last month, on the eve of Eid Al-Aha, and remained in police custody on physical remand until this Monday, when he was sent on 14-day judicial remand to Adiala Jail in Islamabad's twin city of Rawalpindi. He will next be presented before a judicial magistrate on August 16.

Jeffer's parents — Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee — and two members of their household staff were arrested by Islamabad police on July 24 for "hiding evidence and being complicit in the crime."

The parents, sent to jail on judicial remand till August 9, have moved a bail petition against their detention. A district and sessions court in Islamabad on Wednesday reserved until tomorrow, Thursday, its decision on the bail plea.

"Today was the hearing for the bail of Zahir’s parents. Each parent was represented by a separate lawyer. Arguments were heard at length. The decision will be announced tomorrow morning," Mukadam's legal team said on an official Twitter account used to share case updates.

 

 

During Wednesday's hearing today, the parents' counsel, Raja Rizwan Abbasi, said Jaffer's parents had "publicly condemned the murder."

"We stand with the affected party, we don't stand with our son," local media quoted the counsel as telling the court.

He said the parents had not known what was happening in their house when Mukadam was there.

Within two weeks since Monday, police are bound by law to file a charge sheet (challan) in the court asking for Jaffer's trial to commence.

The gruesome murder has sent shockwaves across the country, stirring outrage over femicides and demands for justice. Many activists and social media users have repeatedly raised concerns that Jaffer might get a lenient sentence because of his wealthy background and US nationality.

In a July 27 Twitter post, the US Embassy in Islamabad clarified that US citizens in a foreign country were subject to local laws and while the embassy could check on their well-being and provide a list of lawyers if they were arrested abroad, it couldn’t provide legal advice, participate in court proceedings or effect their release.

On Sunday night, during a live Q&A session with the nation, Prime Minister Imran Khan assured the public: “If someone thinks he is a dual national and has US citizenship and will escape, let me tell you all that no one will be spared.”


Good news for Pakistan: Foreigners vaccinated with Chinese jabs can enter Saudi Arabia

Updated 04 August 2021

Good news for Pakistan: Foreigners vaccinated with Chinese jabs can enter Saudi Arabia

  • International travelers will still require a booster shot of one of four approved Western vaccines
  • Saudi authorities say there is no quarantine requirement for vaccinated people arriving in the country

ISLAMABAD: Foreign visitors who have taken two doses of China's Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines will be allowed into Saudi Arabia, it announced on its e-visa portal, though these international travelers will still require a booster shot of one of four Western coronavirus vaccines approved by the kingdom.
This is good news for Pakistan where a majority of people have been vaccinated using Chinese jabs, and from where thousands travel to the kingdom each year for work and for the Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages. 
Saudi Arabia decided to reopen its tourism sector to international travelers from August 1 after specifying its vaccine preferences.
"All visitors arriving in the country with a valid tourism visa must provide evidence of a full course of one the four vaccines currently recognized: two doses of the Oxford/Astra Zeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the vaccine produced by Johnson and Johnson," the e-visa portal said, adding:
"Guests who have completed two doses of the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines will be accepted if they have received an additional dose of one of the four vaccines approved in the Kingdom." 
Foreign nationals who seek to travel to Saudi Arabia are still required to provide a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before their departure to the kingdom along with a proper vaccination certificate.
"There is no quarantine requirement for vaccinated travelers to Saudi," the notification on the official website said.
The e-visa portal also announced travelers entering on a previously issued tourism visa "will be required to pay an additional fee of SAR 40 at the airport ... to cover insurance for any COVID-19 related medical expenses."


OIC commission to assess Indian rights violations in Kashmir this week

Updated 04 August 2021

OIC commission to assess Indian rights violations in Kashmir this week

  • As India didn’t allow its fact-finding visit, OIC decided to assess the situation on the Indian side of the border from Pakistan-administered Kashmir 
  • Rights commission’s visit coincides with the second anniversary of New Delhi’s decision abrogate Kashmir’s special autonomous status

ISLAMABAD: A delegation from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has arrived in Islamabad to monitor and assess the humanitarian and human rights situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, the Pakistani foreign office said on Wednesday.

The OIC's the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) has been urging India since September 2019 to allow its fact-finding mission to Kashmir, but New Delhi has not responded until now. The commission decided to make a visit to Pakistan-administered Kashmir and assess the situation from there.

Twelve members of the IPHRC started their six-day visit on Wednesday.
“A 12-member delegation of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will be visiting Islamabad and Azad Jammu & Kashmir from 4-9 August 2021, as part of its mandate to monitor the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK),” the foreign office said in a statement.
“During the visit, the IPHRC delegation will travel to Muzaffarabad and the Line of Control, and interact with Kashmiri leadership, refugees from IIOJK and victims of Indian atrocities.”
The Line of Control is the de facto border that divides Kashmiri territory between India and Pakistan, which both claim it in full and rule it in part. The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two of their three wars over control of the region.
The rights commission’s visit coincides with the second anniversary of New Delhi’s decision to scrap Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution that granted special autonomous status to the region, and divided the state into two federally administered units.
The move on Aug. 5, 2019 was followed by a crackdown on political activity, arrests of hundreds of political leaders and a series of administrative measures that raised concerns over attempts at engineering a demographic change in India’s only Muslim-majority region.
During the 47th session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Niamey, Niger, in November last year, the group adopted a new resolution categorically rejecting “unilateral” and “illegal” actions taken by India in Kashmir since Aug. 5, 2019 and its “continued violation of human rights of the Kashmiri people.”
“The visit would be significant in drawing international attention toward the urgent need to address the egregious human rights situation in IIOJK and for a peaceful resolution in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” the foreign office said.
With 57 member states and a collective population of approximately 1.68 billion people, the OIC is the world’s second largest intergovernmental body after the UN.


Ruling party nominee becomes new PM of Pakistan's Azad Kashmir region

Updated 04 August 2021

Ruling party nominee becomes new PM of Pakistan's Azad Kashmir region

  • PTI leader Abdul Qayyum Niazi secured 33 votes in the 53-member legislative assembly
  • Niazi described as a ‘vibrant and genuine political worker’ by Pakistan’s information minister

ISLAMABAD: Abdul Qayyum Niazi, a politician belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of Prime Minister Imran Khan, was on Wednesday elected as the premier of Pakistan's Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) region.
AJK is administered by Pakistan as a nominally self-governing entity and constitutes the western portion of the larger Kashmir region, which has been the subject of a dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947.
Over 3.2 million voters were registered to elect a 53-member assembly in the region for a five-year term. Out of 53 seats, 45 are general, while eight are reserved for women, technocrats and religious scholars.
Niazi secured 33 votes in the legislative assembly polls, Pakistan’s state-run media reported. His rival and a joint opposition candidate Chaudhry Latif Akbar only got 15 votes.
“He [Abdul Qayyum Niazi] is a vibrant and genuine political worker whose heart beats with the [party] workers,” Pakistan's information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said in a Twitter post.
 

The PTI won the recent elections in the region which were held on July 25.
Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed region between India and Pakistan. The two South Asian nuclear neighbors claim its territory in full but only control it in part.
Over the years, Kashmir has witnessed border skirmishes between the two countries along the Line of Control and violence has severely limited tourism in the area.