Dutch foreign minister expected in Islamabad today for talks on Afghanistan

Dutch leader of D66 party Sigrid Kaag arrives for a meeting in Hague on August 24, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 01 September 2021

Dutch foreign minister expected in Islamabad today for talks on Afghanistan

  • Pakistan helped Netherlands evacuate diplomats and other personnel from Afghanistan after Taliban captured Kabul on August 15
  • German foreign minister visited Pakistan on Tuesday, said his country would work closely with leaders in Islamabad for regional peace

ISLAMABAD: Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag is scheduled to arrive in the federal capital today, Wednesday, to discuss the evolving situation in Afghanistan, the Pakistani foreign office said.
Pakistan helped The Netherlands with the evacuation of its diplomats and other personnel from Afghanistan after the Taliban captured Kabul on August 15.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed his concern regarding a fresh wave of asylum seekers from Afghanistan during a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, and told the media the last thing his country wanted was “a repeat of what happened in 2015 and 2016 with the Syrian refugee crisis.”
“In the backdrop of recent developments in Afghanistan, Pakistan and The Netherlands have been in close contact,” the foreign office said in its statement, adding that a telephonic conversation was also held between the foreign ministers of the two countries on August 21.
The foreign office said The Netherlands was one of its largest trading partners in the European Union, and a number of Dutch companies had been investing in the country. “The visit of Foreign Minister Kaag will add to the current momentum of high-level exchanges [between the two countries] and help further strengthen bilateral cooperation in diverse fields.”
Pakistan also hosted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Tuesday who said his country would work closely with the leadership in Islamabad for regional peace.
During a presser with Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Maas said the Taliban were “going to present a new government and it remains to be seen if this government is as inclusive as we demanded it to be.”
“It is important for us that all Afghans, Afghans who do not support the Taliban, are represented by this government, and it remains to be seen if the Taliban will take this into account,” the German FM said. 
He thanked Pakistan for playing a constructive role in the evacuation of German citizens along with vulnerable Afghan nationals from the war-torn country in the last two weeks.
“Pakistan as a neighbor of Afghanistan is fully experiencing the effect of this crisis,” Maas said.


Pakistan PM postpones Ankara visit as Turkiye-Syria quake toll tops 8,300

Updated 29 sec ago

Pakistan PM postpones Ankara visit as Turkiye-Syria quake toll tops 8,300

  • Pakistan has sent relief goods to the two Middle Eastern states on commercial and military airliners
  • As rescue activities continue, time is running out for the thousands who are trapped in the rubble

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday postponed his visit to Ankara after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 southeastern provinces that were hit by a major earthquake that has so far claimed more than 8,300 lives in Syria and Turkiye.

The prime minister called for “tangible and timely material support” for Turkiye a day before while pointing out that Ankara had generously helped Pakistan in the wake of the 2005 earthquake and floods in recent years. He also established a relief fund for quake victims and urged well-off individuals to contribute.

Sharif decided to travel to Turkiye to express solidarity with its people and government while announcing to reschedule a national conference to discuss the security situation in his own country.

“PM visit is postponed due to [the] ongoing relief activities in Turkiye,” federal information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a brief message to the media on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, rescue activities continue in Syria and Turkiye after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake jolted the two countries earlier this week. According to World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, time is running out for the thousands injured and those still feared trapped.

Reports emerging from the two countries say thousands have taken refuge from rains, snow and aftershocks in mosques, schools and bus shelters after losing their apartments and houses.

Some estimates suggest that nearly 23 million people have been affected by the quake which will require significant relief and reconstruction activities in the coming days.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has already sent two planeloads of relief goods to Turkiye and Syria.

The country’s air force also said in a statement on Wednesday it had dispatched tents, blankets and other essential items on two C-130s to Turkiye to help its people.


In latest transport tragedy, 22 people killed in bus-car collision in Pakistan

Updated 8 min 59 sec ago

In latest transport tragedy, 22 people killed in bus-car collision in Pakistan

  • Fatal road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed
  • Bad road infrastructure and use of unfit vehicles are other causes of frequent accidents

PESHAWAR: A speeding bus collided with a car and plunged into a ravine in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 22 passengers and injuring 12 others, police said, the second such deadly accident in less than a week.

The bus was traveling to the garrison city of Rawalpindi from the Ghizer district in the north when the accident happened near Shatial village, 500 kilometers (30 miles) north of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said Dildar Khan, an area police chief.

He said rescuers transferred the dead and injured to a hospital, where some of them were listed in critical condition.

Last Friday, 17 people were killed in a head-on collision between a passenger bus and a speeding truck near a tunnel in the Kohat district in northwest Pakistan. On Jan, 29, another deadly accident happened in southern Pakistan where a bus crashed into a pillar and fell off a bridge, killing 40 people.

Deadly accidents are common in Pakistan due to poor road infrastructure and a disregard for traffic laws.


Security forces kill 12 militants in joint intelligence-based operation in Pakistan’s northwest

Updated 08 February 2023

Security forces kill 12 militants in joint intelligence-based operation in Pakistan’s northwest

  • The militants were kept under surveillance by intelligence operatives in Lakki Marwat before being ambushed
  • Police officials say the militants belonged to a TTP faction that killed six of their men in the district last December

ISLAMABAD: Security forces have carried out a joint intelligence-based operation in the northwest of Pakistan, said official statements released on Wednesday, killing 12 militants involved in violent activities in the region.

The operation was carried out in Lakki Marwat, an impoverished district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where a proscribed militant network, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), carried out more than 15 percent of attacks last year.

According to the military’s media wing, ISPR, the militants killed in the operation also belonged to same network and were kept under surveillance by intelligence operatives for about a week.

“Terrorists were lured in by providing a vehicle for escape that was intercepted and neutralized,” it added. “Weapons, ammunition and Afghan currency were also recovered from the terrorists during the operation.”

In a separate statement, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police said the militants belonged to TTP’s Azharuddin Group, adding they were on their way to Tank district when they were ambushed by the security forces.

“The terrorists opened fire but the security personnel remained safe,” the statement said. “The police targeted the vehicle with a rocket launcher.”

“Azharuddin Group was involved in terrorist activities against the police in Lakki Marwat,” it continued. “It also martyred six policemen in December.”

The TTP ended a fragile truce with the government last November before stepping up attacks on security forces and resorting to suicide bombings in different parts of the country.

The network leadership is said to be based in Afghanistan, making Pakistani authorities urge the administration in Kabul not to let armed factions use its territory to target other states.


Pakistan among most vulnerable nations as glacial lake floods threaten communities

Updated 08 February 2023

Pakistan among most vulnerable nations as glacial lake floods threaten communities

  • Melting mountain glaciers pose a growing flood risk to some 15 million people around the world
  • Collectively, the world’s glaciers lost about 332 gigatons of ice a year between 2006 and 2016

Melting mountain glaciers pose a growing flood risk to some 15 million people around the world, researchers said in a report published on Tuesday, with communities in Asia facing the biggest danger.

Runoff from melting glaciers often pools in shallow lakes, held back by rocks and debris. The risk comes when a lake overfills, bursting through its natural barrier and sending a torrent of water rushing down mountain valleys.

Scientists have assessed for the first time how many people globally are at risk from these floods, finding that more than half of vulnerable populations live in India, Pakistan, China, and Peru.

Danger is highest, they report in a study published in the journal Nature Communications, when a large number of people live near a lake.

“Our work does not just focus on the size or number of glacier lakes — no disaster is natural — it is the presence of people, especially vulnerable people, in the landscape that causes a disaster,” said Stuart Dunning, a physical geographer at Britain’s Newcastle University, and a co-author of the study.

Collectively, the world’s glaciers lost about 332 gigatons of ice a year between 2006 and 2016. Since 1990, the number and volume of glacial lakes worldwide have each increased by about 50 percent.

In the high mountains of Asia, some 9 million people live near more than 2,000 glacial lakes. In 2021, more than 100 people were killed in India in an outburst flood in its northern mountains.

HEATING UP THE HIMALAYAS

Compared with mountain glaciers in the Alps and North America, Asia’s icy places are not as well monitored — most lack long-term observations of how they have changed over time.

The best-studied glacier in the Himalayas is north India’s Chhota Shigri, which has 20 years of mass balance measurements — the difference between how much ice a glacier gains and loses in a year.

In 2022, India suffered blistering temperatures and near the end of the year, scientists headed into the Himalayas to measure Chhota Shigri’s mass.

Their findings, shared with Reuters, revealed the best-studied glacier in the Himalayas had experienced its worst year on record; Chhota Shigri lost three times as much mass in 2022 compared with its 2002 to 2022 yearly average.

“The impacts are already visible as the glacier is thinning and retreating,” said Farooq Azam, a glaciologist at the Indian Institute of Technology Indore who monitors Chhota Shigri. This will be “impactful to downstream water availability in near future,” he said.

Satellite observations also show that the glaciers in the Himalayas are in a state of overall decline.

“The ice is really melting significantly during the last decades — mass loss is accelerating,” said Tobias Bolch, a glaciologist with Graz University of Technology in Austria.

From 1990 to 2015, glacier coverage in the Himalayas shrank by about 11 percent, according to July 2022 study.

During the same time period, Himalayan glacial lakes increased by about 9 percent in number, and 14 percent in area. More than 200 lakes now pose a very high hazard to Himalayan communities, according to 2022 research.


Pakistani winners of Saudi university fest say event helped them show diversity of local culture

Updated 08 February 2023

Pakistani winners of Saudi university fest say event helped them show diversity of local culture

  • Pakistan’s stall secured 1st position in the festival at the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah 
  • The three-day annual event featured stalls and performances by students from 32 countries 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani students, who secured first position at an annual cultural event at the King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah, said on Tuesday that the competition helped them present a positive image of Pakistan by showing its cultural diversity to visitors belonging to more than 30 countries. 

The third edition of KAU’s three-day annual cultural festival was held on January 17-19, featuring stalls and performances by university students from 32 countries. 

Teams of students competed with each other in various aspects of culture, such as food, language, art and music. 

“A total of 30 Pakistani students are studying here and all participated in the event with the aim to show the diversity of our culture to the world as students from different countries were participating in the event,” Ghazanfar Ali, who led the Pakistan team in the competition, told Arab News over the phone from Jeddah. 

“This success will further highlight Pakistan’s positive image among Saudi people as well as other nationalities who visited our stall.” 


In this photo, Pakistani students who secured first position in King Abdulaziz University's cultural festival can be seen with their winning shields and prizes in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on January 19, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Ghazanfar Ali) 

Pakistan has very good historical places, variety of food and different cultural dresses, and the event provided an opportunity to show the richness of Pakistani culture to the world, according to Ali. 

“We worked very hard as a team to pull this off and that was why we got the first position,” he added. 

Another Pakistani student, Abdullah Zai, said it took them more than a month’s hard work to prepare for the performances and stall. 

“We prepared all food items ourselves and assigned this responsibility to different students based on their region in Pakistan,” he said. 

“In the morning sessions, we used to display stall and brief visitors about the unique aspects of different items there, and show Pakistani culture through traditional dance performances during the evening sessions.” 

A group of Pakistani students poses for a picture with their stall at King Abdulaziz University's cultural festival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on January 19, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Ghazanfar Ali)

Zai said their stall presented food from different parts of Pakistan, traditional dresses, paintings of scenic places and artifacts. 

Both visitors from within the university and the outside guests loved the Pakistani cuisine and culture, he said. 

“It gave a good representation to Pakistan in the Kingdom and after the event, many international as well as Saudi students told us they did not know that Pakistani culture was so rich, colorful and diverse,” Zai said. 

The Pakistani consulate in Jeddah helped these expat students arrange items of cultural significance, especially paintings. 

A Pakistani stall is pictured at King Abdulaziz University's cultural festival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on January 19, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Ghazanfar Ali)

Hamzah Gilani, a press counselor with Pakistan’s consulate in Jeddah, said such events enabled people from different backgrounds to come together and appreciate each other’s culture, thus strengthening diplomatic ties between nations. 

“The norms of diplomacy are changing; cultural activities have become the most effective tool of public diplomacy,” Gilani told Arab News. 

He said events such as the one held at the KAU provided a great opportunity to promote a “soft image” of Pakistan as countries could showcase the best of their heritage and traditions through art and culture. 

“I am immensely thankful to the Saudi government for providing us an opportunity to demonstrate the true nature of Pakistan which has been buried under negative stereotypes for far too long,” Gilani added.