Pakistani Taliban warn women in northwest against working for government, NGOs

Women wait to board trucks at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) centre on the outskirts of Peshawar on July 28, 2016. (AFP)
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Updated 25 June 2021

Pakistani Taliban warn women in northwest against working for government, NGOs

  • Threaten "consequences" if women in North Waziristan take up jobs with government departments
  • In February this year, militants shot dead four female aid workers near a main town in North Waziristan

PESHAWAR: The Pakistani Taliban on Thursday warned women in Pakistan's northwest of "consequences" and meeting their "ultimate fate" if they took up jobs with the government or non-governmental organizations.

The Pakistani Taliban are an umbrella of militant groups called the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is banned by the Pakistani government and designated a terrorist group by the US. They are a separate entity from the Afghan Taliban.

In February this year, militants shot dead four female aid workers near Mir Ali, a main town in North Waziristan.

“Women are strictly warned not to undertake jobs at any government body or its stooges (NGOs) on the soil of (North) Waziristan, otherwise everyone knows its consequences,” TTP's spokesperson for North Waziristan, Abdul Rehman, said in a statement.

"Females from the adjacent Bannu or other districts continue to work with government or NGOs presumably for public welfare, but they are causing obscenity despite repeated warnings," Rehman said, adding that the women were "under our observation" and "will meet their ultimate fate soon."

TTP has been in disarray in recent years, after Pakistan military operations and US drone strikes targeting their hideouts in North and South Waziristan, but in August announced a reunion with some of its splinters. The group has since stepped up attacks on government troops and installations in tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, rising concerns that the militants are regrouping there.

The war-torn tribal belt remains one of the most underdeveloped areas of Pakistan.

Senior analyst Rustam Shah Mohmand said the TTP was trying to regain grip over the region and building pressure with threats.

"The TTP is now disorganized, desperate and wants to restore its standing," he said. "But people aren’t ready to accept them." 


Pakistan’s central bank raises GDP forecast to 4-5% amid domestic economic recovery

Updated 27 July 2021

Pakistan’s central bank raises GDP forecast to 4-5% amid domestic economic recovery

  • The State Bank of Pakistan decides to retain the key policy rate at seven percent, a stance it has been maintaining since June 2020
  • The central bank governor says the risk to economic growth could stem from a surge in COVID-19 cases amid a low vaccination rate

KARACHI: Pakistan’s central bank on Tuesday projected the country’s economic growth rate to remain between four and five percent during the current fiscal year, as it revised its earlier forecast of 3.9 percent due to domestic economic recovery and improved inflation outlook.
The central bank also decided to keep the key policy rate at seven percent, a stance it has been maintaining since June 2020.
“The Monetary Policy Committee [MPC] was encouraged by the continued domestic recovery and improved inflation outlook following the recent decline in food prices and core inflation to keep the policy rate unchanged,” said Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Dr. Reza Baqir while addressing a virtual news conference in Karachi.
“Besides, the consumer and business confidence have risen to multi-year highs and inflation expectations have fallen,” he said, adding: “Due to these positive developments, growth is projected to rise from 3.9 percent in FY21 to 4-5 percent this year.”
The SBP governor maintained the key risk to economic growth could come from the spike in COVID-19 cases amid a low vaccination rate.
“The MPC felt that the uncertainty created by the ongoing fourth COVID-19 wave in Pakistan and the global spread of new variants warranted continued emphasis on supporting the recovery through accommodative monetary policy,” he added.
Discussing the country’s current account deficit, he said the imports were expected to grow on the back of the domestic economic recovery.
“The MPC noted that the market-based flexible exchange rate system, resilience in remittances, an improving outlook for exports, and appropriate macroeconomic policy settings should help contain the current account deficit in a sustainable range of two to three percent of the GDP in FY22,” he added.
Baqir said that Pakistan’s economic recovery was primarily driven by large-scale manufacturing, construction and service sectors.
He added that growth was further expected to pick up during the current fiscal year due to several measures announced in the budget.
Such measures include increased development spending along with reduced regulatory duties and sales tax on the import of raw materials and capital goods.
“These measures will directly benefit the construction and allied industries, as well as export-oriented industries. Agricultural growth is also expected to contribute favorably [to the economy] despite reported water shortages at the start of the sowing period of Kharif crops,” the SBP governor said.
The governor said that Pakistan’s external position was at its strongest in the last several years.
“This is the lowest current account deficit in 10 years, supported by all-time high exports and remittances. The SBP’s forex reserves rose by $5.2 billion during FY21 to end at over $17 billion or around three months of imports,” he added.


West Indies ready for Pakistan T20 test in Barbados

Updated 27 July 2021

West Indies ready for Pakistan T20 test in Barbados

  • West Indies are said to be too reliant on boundary-hitting and soak up far too many scoreless deliveries to be consistently competitive
  • West Indies also struggled to chase modest totals in a recent series with South Africa, though they performed well against Australia

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: Two supremely talented teams collide in a four-match T20 International series with the West Indies and Pakistan starting Wednesday at Kensington Oval in Barbados before the contest shifts to Providence Stadium in Guyana for the remaining three matches.
This was originally scheduled as a five-match series but last week’s Covid 19 scare during the One-Day International series between the West Indies and Australia forced a two-day delay which has resulted in the loss of one of the scheduled encounters in Barbados. History suggests that the tourists will start as favorites.
Since being well beaten by 84 runs in Dhaka at the 2014 World T20, the Pakistanis have gotten the better of the reigning world champions in nine of the subsequent ten meetings.
But a lot has happened in the three years since they last met in April 2018, and while it is quite possible that Babar Azam’s side, having just come out of a very competitive series in England, will maintain their impressive run against these opponents, they would certainly have noticed the transformation — on and off the field — which suggests that the West Indies are a very different outfit now.
While the team which last faced Pakistan in Karachi missed a host of key players, the West Indies can now truly to be said to be at full strength, with the exception of spinner Sunil Narine who continues to be unavailable due to a reported lack of confidence at this time in his bowling action.
However, having Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo and captain Kieron Pollard, together with a host of other headline names, is no guarantee of success.
West Indies struggled consistently to chase modest totals in a series with South Africa and were found wanting against the spin of top-ranked Tabraiz Shamsi and to a lesser extent, Geroge Linde, losing the series in Grenada in June 3-2.
West Indies rebounded from that series loss to South Africa to breeze past Australia 4-1 in St. Lucia, although their struggles against spin were emphasized in the subsequent three-match ODI series with Australia prevailing 2-1 and West Indies captain Pollard in the immediate aftermath on Monday condemning the pitches prepared for those matches in Bridgetown as an embarrassment and unfit for international cricket.
One of most consistent criticisms of this West Indies T20 squad is that they are too reliant on boundary-hitting and soak up far too many scoreless deliveries for them to be consistently competitive when the big events come around. That was apparent against both the South Africans and Australians.
This is something Pakistan will no doubt want to exploit, especially if the surfaces are helpful enough and the likes of Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Usman Qadir and even the evergreen Mohammad Hafeez are confident enough to challenge the vaunted West Indies power-hitters in the manner of Shamsi and Linde just a few weeks ago.


No confession in Noor murder case yet, says victim’s lawyer

Updated 27 July 2021

No confession in Noor murder case yet, says victim’s lawyer

  • Noor Mukadam, daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat, was brutally killed and beheaded in Islamabad on July 20
  • US embassy says its staff recently met the main suspect in the case since he is a dual Pakistani and American national
ISLAMABAD: The main suspect in the killing of the 27-year-old daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat has not confessed to the crime in police custody, said a lawyer involved in the case, adding that the victim’s family was waiting for a courtroom hearing.
Noor Mukadam, daughter of Ambassador Shaukat Mukadam, was brutally murdered and beheaded in an upscale neighborhood of Pakistan’s federal capital on July 20.
The police sprang into action and registered a criminal case on the same day against one of her acquaintances, Zahir Zakir Jaffer, after arresting him from the crime scene.
Jaffer has since been in police custody on a physical remand.
“The confession [of a crime] is done before a magistrate,” Shah Khawar, Mukadam’s lawyer, told Arab News while rebutting some recent news reports. “There is no such thing yet.”
Khawar added that the victim’s legal team was hoping for a quick police investigation into the case since they wanted the trial to begin soon.
“A majority of the evidence in the case has already been collected,” he continued. “Some forensic evidence is awaited, but we hope the police will present the challan in the court next week. We will plead the case in the court on the basis of the evidence and try to get maximum punishment for the accused.”
Local media also reported that officials of the United States embassy in Islamabad held a meeting with Jaffer, a dual Pakistani and US national, on Monday, causing some uproar on social media.
However, the American diplomatic mission in Pakistan clarified in a Twitter post on Tuesday that US citizens were subject to local laws while being in a foreign country, adding that the embassy could “check on their well-being and provide a list of lawyers” if they were arrested abroad.

Meanwhile, Jaffer’s parents, who are treated as his accomplices, moved their bail petition in a district and sessions court in Islamabad against their detention on Tuesday, said their lawyer while claiming they were not involved in Mukadam’s gruesome murder.
The court accepted the petition and is scheduled to hear the application on July 30.
The Islamabad police last Saturday arrested the accused’s parents and their two domestic workers for “hiding evidence and being complicit in the crime.”
A sessions court in Islamabad earlier in the day sent Jaffer’s parents and their household staff on a 14-day judicial remand to jail.
“We have filed for the bail of Jaffer’s parents as they are not involved in the case. They are innocents,” Rizwan Abbasi, a lawyer who is representing them in the courts, told Arab News.
“Jaffer’s parents were in Karachi on the day of the unfortunate incident, and they have no enmity with the victim and her family,” he continued.
Abbasi added the police had arrested the domestic staff, thinking they had failed to alert the police at the time of the incident, though “they were not aware of the crime.”
“The police should prosecute the principal accused in the case,” he said while hoping that his clients would soon be released on bail.
While Mukadam’s lawyer hoped for an early conclusion of the investigation, the police said they would seek further physical remand of the accused since their probe was not complete yet.
“The accused will be completing seven days of his physical remand tomorrow [Wednesday], and under the law the police can seek his further remand for at least eight days before presenting a challan in the court,” Ziaul Qamar, a police spokesperson, told Arab News.
However, he declined to comment on Jaffer’s reported confession.
“We will present all the evidence in the case to the court and cannot reveal details to the media at this stage,” he added.


Pakistan’s Sindh province terms COVID-19 situation ‘alarming’ as Karachi’s positivity ratio reaches 26%

Updated 27 July 2021

Pakistan’s Sindh province terms COVID-19 situation ‘alarming’ as Karachi’s positivity ratio reaches 26%

  • Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah urges people not to leave their home ‘without valid reason’
  • The surge in COVID-19 cases in the province has been caused by the local transmission of delta variant

ISLAMABAD: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said on Tuesday his province was witnessing an “abnormal” spike in COVID-19 cases, adding that the situation in Karachi was particularly “alarming and critical” since the coronavirus positivity ratio had crossed 26 percent in the city.
“The chief minister reviewed the overall COVID-19 situation [in the province] and termed it alarming,” said an official statement released by his office after a meeting of the Provincial Task Force on Coronavirus earlier today.
The province’s health secretary Dr. Kazim Jatoi briefed the task force, saying that COVID-19 positivity ratio in Sindh had reached 12.7 percent while it was recorded in Karachi at 26.32 percent on July 26.
“This is quite a critical situation,” the chief minister said in response.
He directed the provincial health department to conduct more COVID-19 tests in Karachi and trace the contacts of infected individuals to limit the spread of the disease.
The Sindh administration announced new restrictions last week as the country grappled with a surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the local transmission of the more aggressive delta variant.
Shah observed during the meeting that “some political friends” were issuing “irresponsible statements” against the closure of markets in Sindh.
“This results in misleading the public,” he continued, adding he was taking strict measures to save people of his province from the pandemic.
The chief minister constituted a ministerial committee to sensitize all stakeholders, including shopkeepers, traders, transporters and politicians to cooperate with the government “in the supreme interest of the public health,” said the statement.
He directed the Sindh police chief and Karachi commissioner to ensure timely closure of markets, tuition centers and private gyms which are still operating.
“He urged the residents of the province to stay home and avoid going out without valid reason,” the statement read.
Pakistan on Tuesday reported 3,262 new coronavirus cases and 39 fatalities in the last 24 hours.


Last week, the country crossed the grim milestone of one million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began last year.


Pakistan, US to form joint working group to address climate change 

Updated 27 July 2021

Pakistan, US to form joint working group to address climate change 

  • Pakistan plans to shift 60 percent energy mix to clean energy, 30 percent of transport toward electric vehicles by 2030
  • Germanwatch in January described Pakistan as eighth most vulnerable country to climate change

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States have agreed to form a joint working group to address challenges related to climate change, the Pakistani ministry of climate change said late Monday.
The statement comes after Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, met US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry in London, where both were attending a Pre-COP26 Ministerial meeting from 25-26 July 2021.
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow from October 31 to November 12, 2021 under the presidency of the United Kingdom.
Aslam thanked the United States government for reigniting its leadership role on climate change under the Biden administration, and assured that Pakistan believed in a low carbon development pathway and on nature-based solutions to climate change.
“On its part Pakistan is focussed on shifting 60 percent of its energy mix to clean energy by 2030 and for shifting 30 percent of its transport toward electric vehicles by 2030,” the PM’s aide said.
“It will be truly great working with Pakistan to support its green initiatives launched as a part of global climate action and restoration of degraded ecosystems and attainment of overall environmental sustainability and climate resilience,” the statement said, quoting Kerry.
Kerry also “assured Pakistan of full support from United States on climate change including providing access to best available technologies in renewable energy transition, technical support on climate smart agriculture and availability of climate finance.”
A German think tank, Germanwatch, in January this year described Pakistan as the eighth most vulnerable country to climate change, having witnessed 173 extreme weather events and suffered an estimated loss of $3.8 billion as a consequence between 2000 and 2019.