Interior minister accuses India, Israel, Afghanistan of 'conspiring' against Pakistan

Pakistan's Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid speaks during a press conference on the brief abduction of the daughter of Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, in Islamabad on July 18, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 10 August 2021

Interior minister accuses India, Israel, Afghanistan of 'conspiring' against Pakistan

  • Interior Minister says investigation into bus blast that killed nine Chinese in mid-July had been completed 
  • No hurdle in CPEC will be “tolerated at any cost,” the whole nation is behind the project, Sheikh Rashid says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Monday urged the nation to unite against “conspiracies” being hatched by Israel, India and Afghanistan’s national intelligence agency against the country. 
The minister accused the three countries of terrorism and unrest in Pakistan, without specifying the charges or giving any evidence to support them.
“The conspiracies India, Israel and NDS [National Directorate of Security of Afghanistan] are hatching [against Pakistan], they demand unity to fight them,” the interior minister said while addressing a press conference in Islamabad. “Whatever is happening in this country is backed by terrorism, NDS, RAW [Indian intelligence agency] and Israel.”
The minister also told reporters an investigation into a bus blast last month that killed 13 people, including nine Chinese, in northwestern Pakistan, had been completed. 
The Chinese workers were employed at the Dasu Hydropower Project, which is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $65 billion investment plan aiming to link western China to the southern Pakistani port of Gwadar.
“Investigation was with the interior ministry and our agencies have completed the probe,” Ahmed said. “However, the foreign minister will announce [the report].”
Beijing had initially termed the incident a bomb attack on the bus but backed away from the assertion after Pakistan stated it was an accident. Later Beijing said it would send a team to help investigate the matter jointly with Pakistan. 
A team of 15 Chinese investigators visited Pakistan last month and, accompanied by Pakistani officials, began investigations into the incident. 
“Pak-China friendship is higher than Himalaya, and no hurdle in CPEC will be tolerated at any cost,” he said. “The whole nation is behind CPEC.”


French paraglider goes missing in northern Pakistan

Updated 03 July 2022

French paraglider goes missing in northern Pakistan

  • Savall Xavier Alain Francois flew along with two Spanish paragliders from a peak in Hunza on Saturday
  • The Spanish duo landed safely at a riverside, but there has since been no trace of the French pilot

GHIZER: A French paraglider pilot, Savall Xavier Alain Francois, went missing shortly after he took a flight from a peak in Pakistan's northern Gilgit-Baltistan region on Saturday, officials told Arab News. 

Gilgit-Baltistan, a region administered by Pakistan as an autonomous territory, is home to some of the highest peaks in the world and a major tourist destination. Hundreds of tourists visit the region each year for expeditions on various peaks, paragliding and other sports. 

The French paraglider pilot flew along with two Spanish paragliders from a peak in Hunza district at around 4pm on Saturday, according to officials. While the Spanish duo landed safely, there was no trace of Francois.  

“Upon receiving the information, a team comprising Rescue 1122 members, police and local volunteers was dispatched to the site,” Hunza Superintendent of Police (SP) Zahoor Ahmed told Arab News over the phone. "But they could not trace him." 

Hunza Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Usman said they have decided to trace the missing French paraglider with the help of a chopper.

An official of the Gilgit-Baltistan Tourist Police, who wished not to be named, said the three paragliders flew from the Duikar village of Hunza and two of them safely landed at the riverside in Ganish valley.   

He said a helicopter has reached Hunza to launch a search for missing French paraglider pilot.


Uncertainty hangs over Pakistani finance minister’s future after criticism from within ruling party

Updated 03 July 2022

Uncertainty hangs over Pakistani finance minister’s future after criticism from within ruling party

  • Miftah Ismail says he has become the face of unpopular economic decisions taken by the current administration
  • Some people speculate Ismail may be replaced in coming days by Pakistan’s former finance minister Ishaq Dar

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance minister Miftah Ismail confirmed on Sunday he was facing opposition and criticism from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party since he had become the face of unpopular economic decisions taken by the government, though some of his senior colleagues openly came to his rescue as well.

Ismail, a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) employee and the owner of Pakistan’s largest confectionary company, was handed the finance portfolio by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in April when the country’s cash-strapped economy was facing multiple crises.

With a mounting import bill and dwindling foreign currency reserves, the finance minister was forced to raise the prices of petroleum products four times in little over one month while trying to revive a $6 billion IMF loan program.

His political woes were further compounded by media reports about the possible return of Pakistan’s former finance minister Ishaq Dar from self-imposed exile in London, creating some speculation that Ismail may ultimately have to step down and make space for his senior party colleague.

“I have support from the federal cabinet and PML-N but there are few party members criticizing and opposing me,” he was quoted by Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper.

The finance minister acknowledged he was under tremendous pressure, adding he did not want to hold his last press conference in which he announced increase in the petroleum product prices. However, he informed it was the prime minister who convinced him otherwise.

“I swear it has never happened that I was unable to find suitable words,” he said. “I kept thinking what words should I be using to start the press conference.”

Asked if he was willing to be replaced by Dar, he said it was the prime minister’s prerogative to make such decisions.

“I know only one thing that I would comply with whatever decision the prime minister takes within the next 15 minutes of becoming aware of it,” he said.

He maintained he would continue to be with the party and support its decisions even if he was removed from the post.

However, he got some support from defense minister Khawaja Asif on Saturday who said Miftah was “among the hardest working members of the PM’s team” who was performing “well under difficult circumstances.”

Asif asked other PML-N members to “show solidarity” with the finance minister.

Another PML-N stalwart and former prime minister of the country Shahid Khaqan Abbasi agreed with him, saying Ismail’s knowledge of Pakistan’s economy was “without parallel in Pakistan[‘s] politics today.”

“He is one of the most effective members of PM’s cabinet,” Abbasi continued. “He has played a crucial role in saving Pakistan from default and in implementing PMLN’s economic reform agenda.”


Lots of lobe: Pakistani baby goat aims at world record for longest ears

Updated 03 July 2022

Lots of lobe: Pakistani baby goat aims at world record for longest ears

  • Simba is only one month old but its ears are already 53 cm long and growing
  • His ears are now 10 cm longer than of the current record holder, a goat born in Saudi Arabia

KARACHI: The owner of Simba, a Pakistani baby goat born with unusually long ears, is aiming at having it recognized by Guinness World Records as the kid’s earlobes are already half a meter long and keep on growing. 

Simba was born on June 4, 2022, with 48 cm-long ears that in less than a month have already reached 53 cm — 10 cm longer than of a goat born in Saudi Arabia, which according to the Pakistani kid’s owner, Muhammad Hasan Narejo, has been assumed by breeders to be the unofficial current record holder. 

“I applied to the Guinness book team,” he told Arab News over the weekend. “They have successfully accepted our request and we are expecting their answers in 10 to 12 weeks.”

While Simba was born at Narejo’s home in Karachi, he also owns a farm in Sanghar in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, where for the past four years he has been breading goats from the Lady and Barbari breeds.

Narejo and his younger brother pet Simba outside its cage in a garden, on July 1, 2022. (AN photo)

Simba is from the Lady breed, which generally has longer ears, although not this long. 

“This is a giant size,” he said. “I went to the tailor and made a special bag for this baby goat. We carry the ears in the bag.”

The kid’s ears are longer than its body. The pelage is also rare, as the ears are white, contrasting with its camel-color coat.

The name Simba comes from the protagonist of Disney’s “The Lion King” animated feature, which Narejo said he had watched in childhood.

“Simba means a lion,” he said. “This name clicked in my mind, so I gave this name to this goat baby.”

Simba walks idly behind its owner, Mohammad Hasan Narejo, in a garden, on July 1, 2022. (AN photo)

The one takes care of Simba is Narejo’s younger brother, Yasir Ali Narejo, who told Arab News the goat is his “best friend.”

“I brush him, I walk with him. Simba is very naughty. He tries to eat sand and grass, but since he is a baby, he cannot eat grass.”

The owner said he has already received offers from breeders in Saudi Arabia and Oman interested in buying Simba.  

“They say, 'you set the price and we will buy.' But so far, my focus is to bring Simba into the Guinness Book of World Records, register it with the name of Simba Pakistani, make Pakistan feel proud.”

Some of Narejo’s neighbors in Karachi, like Muhammad Salman, are already proud of the little goat.

“We all are happy, as Allah has blessed this area with this beautiful creature,” he said. “We feel proud of such a beautiful animal.”


Pakistan’s Hajj operations going smoothly, says religious affairs minister

Updated 03 July 2022

Pakistan’s Hajj operations going smoothly, says religious affairs minister

  • Mufti Abdul Shakoor confirms Saudi Arabia has increased Pakistan’s Hajj quota to 83,132
  • Pakistani Hajj mission has established two hospitals and 7 dispensaries for pilgrims

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Mufti Abdul Shakoor said on Sunday Pakistan’s Hajj operations were running smoothly as a majority of pilgrims had already arrived in Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan’s religious affairs minister Mufti Abdul Shakoor (2L) takes briefing from the officials of Pakistani Hajj mission in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, on July 3, 2022. (Photo courtesy: Ministry of Religious Affairs)

Pakistan was initially allocated a quota of 81,132 pilgrims this year, out of which more 34,000 were supposed to utilize the government scheme while the rest had to be facilitated by private operators.
However, the Saudi authorities later increased Pakistan’s quota by 2,000, the minister confirmed, taking it to 83,132 pilgrims.
“The Saudi government has provided best facilities to Pakistani pilgrims,” he told Arab News over the phone from Makkah. “With [the kingdom’s] cooperation, we have completed all arrangements and our Hajj operation is going on smoothly without any problem.”

Pakistan’s religious affairs minister Mufti Abdul Shakoor is inspecting food preparations for pilgrims in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, on July 1, 2022. (Courtesy: Ministry of Religious Affairs)

Shakoor said the arrangements provided to pilgrims included pick and drop service from airport, provision of good residential facilities in both Makkah and Madinah, hygienic food, transport and medical facilities.
“The Hajj medical mission has established one main hospital and five dispensaries in Makkah along with one main hospital and two dispensaries in Madinah,” he continued. “78,322 pilgrims have already arrived [in Saudi Arabia], including 34,322 under the government scheme, and the arrival of private scheme pilgrims will complete on July 4.”
The minister applauded the Saudi government for providing the Makkah Route facility to Pakistani pilgrims on a bigger scale this year, making it possible for the religious affairs ministry to operate “Hajj flights of Peshawar Faisalabad and Sialkot from the Islamabad airport.”

Pakistan’s religious affairs minister Mufti Abdul Shakoor is inspecting food preparations for pilgrims in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, on July 1, 2022. (Courtesy: Ministry of Religious Affairs)

“To help pilgrims perform Hajj without any trouble, the Saudi government has improved the services at Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah,” he said, adding the authorities had also established a toll-free helpline and there were guides in both Makkah and Madinah to help pilgrims and resolve their problems.
Shakoor said the Saudi authorities had also provided home check-in facility on return flights that would make them collect luggage from the residential facilities of pilgrims for flights from Makkah and Madinah.
Asked about Hajj expenses, he said the government had managed to significantly bring them down despite the depreciation of the Pakistani currency and other financial challenges.

Pakistan’s religious affairs minister Mufti Abdul Shakoor is inspecting food preparations for pilgrims in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, on July 1, 2022. (Courtesy: Ministry of Religious Affairs)

“We have brought down Hajj expenses by eliminating the role of the middle man and got residences directly from Saudi companies at much lower rates,” he said.
The minister added the government had tried to further cut down the expenses by providing one way trip to pilgrims in such a way that those who landed in Madinah would return to Pakistan after performing the pilgrimage from Makkah and those who arrived in Jeddah would return from Madinah.


Interior minister says military given go-ahead for peace talks with Pakistani Taliban

Updated 03 July 2022

Interior minister says military given go-ahead for peace talks with Pakistani Taliban

  • Rana Sanaullah says military will inform parliament about any progress in the talks
  • The minister maintains the negotiations are taking place under the constitution

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Saturday a parliamentary committee had given a green signal to the military to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban, according to a local media report.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks in the country’s history. Its top leaders are based in Afghanistan from where they intensified attacks in Pakistan after the Afghan Taliban seized control of Kabul last year in August.
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed in June the Afghan government was meditating the peace talks between the government and the TTP.
“The military leadership would inform the committee about any progress in the talks and the matter would then be debated in parliament,” the interior minister was quoted as saying by Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.
He confirmed the talks would be held under Pakistan’s constitution, adding that nothing which exceeded the limits of the constitution would be negotiated or agreed with the TTP.
Former prime minister Imran Khan made headlines in October 2021 when he revealed, in an interview to the Turkish media, that Pakistan was holding talks with the TTP.
Khan said the government was offering political amnesty and was willing to agree to release local Taliban prisoners to reach an agreement with the group.
The talks with TTP broke down several times in the past, with both sides blaming each other for violating their commitments.