Journalists’ body expresses concern over Pakistani Taliban's threat to media

Pakistani journalists broadcast live news in Islamabad, Pakistan, on June 28, 2018. (AFP/File)
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Updated 08 September 2021

Journalists’ body expresses concern over Pakistani Taliban's threat to media

  • TTP recently asked journalists not to call the faction a ‘terrorist outfit’ or be treated as ‘enemies’ by the group
  • Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists said over 30 media workers had already been killed in militant attacks in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has expressed concern over a recent threat made by the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) organization to the press, asking the government and media owners to take it seriously and take immediate steps to increase the security of journalists.
Earlier this week, TTP spokesman Mohammad Khurasani said the group had been tracking some media coverage in which it was described as a “terrorist outfit.” He warned the journalists not to force his faction to turn them into its “enemies.”
In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi expressed concern over the safety of journalists, particularly those working in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
“We have suggested that the media owners should be bound to provide life insurance to all their employees, particularly those working in the conflict areas,” the statement said. “Media owners should also provide safety gear to those working in conflict areas along with special training to deal with potentially hazardous situations.”
According to the PFUJ, militants have already killed over 30 journalists in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
The association of journalists also said in its statement it was time the government accepted all its recommendations in the proposed Journalists’ Safety and Protection Bill.
TTP came into being in 2007 and the government listed it as a proscribed entity in August 2008, following its targeted attacks on civilians.
In 2014, under the country’s National Action Plan against terrorism, the government also banned all offshoots of the group and barred the media from “glorifying” militant factions.

Pakistan applauds operationalization of $575 million ‘loss and damage’ fund at COP28 in Dubai

Updated 30 November 2023

Pakistan applauds operationalization of $575 million ‘loss and damage’ fund at COP28 in Dubai

  • At UN climate talks in Dubai, nearly 200 nations agreed to launch the fund to support countries hit by global warming 
  • The occasion followed Pakistan’s crucial role at COP27 in Egypt, where it advocated for the establishment of the fund 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday applauded a swift operationalization of $575 million for a global fund for climate-related “loss and damage” for vulnerable nations on the opening day of the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, or COP28, the Pakistani climate change ministry said. 

Nearly 200 nations agreed Thursday to launch a fund to support countries hit by global warming, in a historic moment at the start of UN climate talks in the oil-rich UAE. The announcement came as the Emirati host of the COP28 talks declared that fossil fuels must be part of any climate deal negotiated over the next two weeks. 

The talks in Dubai come at a pivotal moment for the planet, with emissions still rising and the UN on Thursday declaring 2023 on track to become the hottest year in human history. The formal establishment of the loss and damage fund, long sought by climate-vulnerable nations, provided an early win at COP28, where sharp divisions over the phasing out of fossil fuels were immediately apparent. 

The momentous occasion followed Pakistan’s crucial role at COP27 in Egypt, where, as the chair of the G77 and China group, it advocated for the establishment of the fund. Over the past one year, the South Asian country actively engaged as a member of the transitional committee responsible for finalizing recommendations for the fund’s operationalization. 

“Pakistan applauds the historic achievement at COP28 (30 Nov to 12 Dec 2023) as the Loss and Damage Fund sees swift operationalization, with an astounding USD 575 million pledged within the first hour of the conference’s opening session,” the Pakistani climate change ministry said in a statement. 

“The pledge includes USD 225 million committed by European Union.” 

The Pakistani delegation also expressed gratitude for the global community’s rapid response, recognizing the fund’s significance in mitigating climate-related challenges, especially for nations facing vulnerabilities. 

“While the initial pledges amount to a significant sum of USD 575 million, it is recognized that these contributions fall short in addressing the immense challenges faced by climate-vulnerable nations. The call to action resonates with the understanding that additional financial support is imperative to effectively mitigate and manage the aftermath of climate-related disasters,” the statement read. 

“Pakistan reaffirms its dedication to actively engaging and leading developing countries on this critical issue. The country remains committed to collaborative efforts with the global community to ensure the effective implementation and utilization of the Loss and Damage Fund.” 

Leaders at COP28 have been urged to move more quickly to a clean energy future and make deeper cuts to emissions, with the world off-track to keep global temperature rises below agreed levels. A central focus of the conference will be a stocktake of the world’s limited progress on curbing global warming, which requires an official response at these talks. 

Double the size of last year’s COP27, the conference is billed as the largest ever with 97,000 people, including Britain’s King Charles III and some 180 other heads of state and government expected to attend. The UN and hosts the UAE say the talks will be the most important since Paris in 2015, and climate finance for poorer nations has been a key agenda item. 

Ex-PM Khan urges Pakistan top judge to ensure equal opportunities to all parties in Feb. 8 polls

Updated 30 November 2023

Ex-PM Khan urges Pakistan top judge to ensure equal opportunities to all parties in Feb. 8 polls

  • The ex-premier requests Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa to set up a commission to probe ‘disappearances,’ arrests of political workers 
  • The development comes amid months-long crackdown on Khan’s party and as Pakistan heads to national polls amid political turmoil

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan prime minister, Imran Khan, has drawn Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s attention toward the “discrimination” faced by his party, urging him to ensure that all political parties get equal opportunities in the upcoming general elections, scheduled to be held on February 8. 

The development comes amid a months-long crackdown on supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which began after violent attacks on government and military installations over Khan’s brief arrest in a graft case in May this year. 

Several top aides and members of Khan’s party have since distanced themselves from the party, while many still remain behind bars. The ex-premier himself is facing a slew of cases that he says are “politically motivated” and aimed at keeping him out of politics. He has been in jail since August 5 after being convicted in a case involving the sale of state gifts. 

In a letter written to CJP Isa on Thursday, Khan said the apex court could not be unaware of the “disappearances” and “arbitrary arrests” of individuals affiliated with the PTI, and that there was no possibility of a fair general election on February 8 without the intervention of the apex court to halt these widespread arrests. 

“The practice of successive arrests of persons granted bails in known cases must be stopped. Arrests on the basis of fresh FIRs (first information reports), or the inclusion through supplementary statements, the list of accused in existing FIRs may only be undertaken after affording the accused opportunity to approach a court of competent jurisdiction for pre-arrest bail,” Khan wrote in his letter. 

“A commission may kindly be set to in investigating the abductions/disappearances of journalists/political workers all across the country.” 

The former premier requested the top judge to direct the federal and provincial governments as well as the election regulator to ensure that persons affiliated with all political parties, including the PTI, are allowed to carry out political meetings and gatherings without “discrimination between one party and any other.” 

“The federal government and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority be directed to ensure that all political parties, including the PTI, and their leaders and members are allowed coverage without any restriction or discrimination,” Khan added. 

Khan’s letter comes amid repeated accusations by his PTI party against the current caretaker administration and the military establishment of having a soft corner for three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party. 

Sharif, who was convicted of corruption in 2018 and returned to Pakistan in October after nearly four years in self-imposed exile, was on Wednesday acquitted in a case relating to the purchase of upscale London flats. He was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison in the case. 

Khan’s loyalists see the recent judgments granting relief to Sharif and his family members as favors given to the PML-N, which appears to be poised to take over the reins of the country once again. 

Pakistan becomes first country in South Asia to issue ‘gender bond’ to financially empower women 

Updated 30 November 2023

Pakistan becomes first country in South Asia to issue ‘gender bond’ to financially empower women 

  • Through the bond, Pakistani non-profit Kashf Foundation will raise $8.7 million from stock market to extend micro loans to 30,000 women 
  • Caretaker finance minister calls the launch of gender bond a ‘groundbreaking initiative’ and a powerful tool for bridging the gender gap 

KARACHI: Pakistan on Thursday became the first country in South Asia to launch a ‘gender bond’ to raise Rs2.5 billion ($8.7 million) for micro loan disbursement to an expected 30,000 women, mostly affected by devastating floods that wreaked havoc in the country in 2022.

The first “only-for-women bond” has been issued by Kashf Foundation, a Pakistani non-profit organization, in collaboration with InfraZamin Pakistan, for-profit credit enhancement facility funded from InfraCo. Asia Investments and Karandaaz Pakistan. 

The Rs2.5 billion proceeds of the bond, raised through the country’s stock market, will be utilized to extend loans, mostly to women who were affected by the 2022 floods, according to the issuers. 

“The idea behind this bond is to give loans to those women who were affected by the floods last year so that they can build resilience and protect themselves in the future,” Shahzad Iqbal, chief financial officer at Kashf Foundation, told Arab News on the sidelines of the bond’s launch at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX). 

“The bond size is Rs2.5 billion and the tenure of the bond is three years. This is only for women that is why it is called a gender bond.” 

Within the three-year period, Iqbal believed, his lending institution would provide loans to around 30,000 women through micro-lending. 

An InfraZamin official said the sole purpose of the bond’s issuance was financial inclusion of women by contributing toward small businesses led by women as well as the restoration of flood-affected homes for women. 

“By creating such a structure, we have effectively targeted women and because of that, we have met the requirements for this to be a gender bond,” Maheen Rahman, chief executive of InfraZamin Pakistan, told Arab News. 

“There are several (gender bonds) in the world, but in Pakistan this is the first gender bond. And in South Asia, this is the first gender bond to be issued,” said Rehman, whose company has guaranteed the bond. 

Maheen Rehman, chief executive of InfraZamin Pakistan, is addressing the launch ceremony of Pakistan's first "gender bond" in Karachi, Pakistan, on November 30, 2023. (AN photo)

The bond’s issuance follows the guidelines prescribed by the national financial regulatory agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), while Arif Habib Limited, a leading Karachi-based brokerage house, has played a role of financial adviser and arranger for the bond. 

Shahid Ali Habib, CEO, Arif Habib Limited (AHL), informed the bond would be traded at PSX’s over-the-counter (OTC) market. 

“It will be listed in the OTC market and the issue is closed now,” Habib said. “This will be processed at the stock exchange in a month or one-and-a-half month time and then will be available for trading.” 

Pakistan’s Caretaker Finance Minister Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, who spoke via video link, termed the launch of gender bond a “groundbreaking initiative.” 

“The gender bond is a powerful tool for bridging the gender gap and empowering women,” Akhtar said. “As the demand for sustainable investment continues to grow, gender bonds are poised to play a significant role in driving positive social change and empowerment within Pakistan.” 

To a question about lending to borrowers, the Kashf CFO said the minimum lending would be around Rs60,000 ($209) and the maximum would be around Rs500,000 ($1,748) per borrower, for which the procedure was very simple. 

“They don’t need to provide us any kind of documentation or a guarantee. They simply need to provide us a copy of their CNIC (computerized national identity card) and a photograph, and then we do a valuation of their repayment behavior,” Iqbal said, adding it usually took around two to seven days to complete the loan process. 

Rehman said the payback ratio among women borrowers was much better than men, with the lender incurring minimum losses. 

“We found that women who borrow from such institutions (Kashf foundation) pay back far better than what we saw in other institutions that were catering to both men and women,” she said. “In fact, Kashf’s non-performing loan portfolio is only 0.5 percent of their total loan book.” 

SECP Chairman Akif Saeed said such micro loans to women created a social impact that benefitted whole families. 

Pakistani province aims to deport 10,000 Afghans a day

Updated 30 November 2023

Pakistani province aims to deport 10,000 Afghans a day

  • The measure is part of a crackdown following a sharp decline in the expulsion of undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan 
  • Some of those targeted for deportation have apparently gone to remote areas in Pakistan to avoid arrest, authorities say 

QUETTA: A Pakistani province is setting targets for police to arrest and deport hundreds of thousands of Afghans who are in the country illegally, officials said Thursday. 

The measure is part of a nationwide crackdown following a sharp decline in the expulsion of Afghans living in Pakistan without legal permission. Near the Chaman border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan, local residents were protesting against new travel visa requirements aimed at cutting down on illegal immigration that have disrupted traffic in the area. 

Some of those targeted for deportation had apparently gone to remote areas in Pakistan to avoid arrest, authorities said. 

“Instructions have gone to police to arrest Afghans living in Pakistan illegally,” said Jan Achakzai, spokesperson for the government in southwestern Pakistan’s Balochistan province. He said authorities have been asked to deport 10,000 Afghans a day. 

Achakzai made his comment days after authorities at the two key northwestern Torkham and southwestern Chaman border crossings acknowledged that there has been a sudden decrease in the number of Afghans who were sent back to Afghanistan after being arrested on the charges of living in Pakistan illegally. 

An estimated 1.7 million Afghans were living in Pakistan in October when authorities announced the crackdown, saying that anyone without proper documents had to go back to their countries by Oct. 31 or be arrested. 

Since then, more than 400,000 Afghans returned to their home country. 

Pakistani officials say they are deporting only those foreigners, including Afghans, who are in the country illegally, and an estimated 1.4 million Afghans who are registered as refugees should not worry as they are not the target of the anti-migrant drive. Police in Pakistan have been going door to door to check migrants’ documentation. 

Pakistan has been hosting Afghans since the 1980s, when millions of Afghans fled south and east to the neighboring Islamic nation during the Soviet occupation of their country. The numbers spiked after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021. 

As part of its crackdown, Pakistan stopped recognizing special permits under which hundreds of thousands of residents in the Balochistan province border town of Chaman could cross between the two countries. The new visa requirement angered residents who have been rallying near the border, disrupting normal traffic toward the border crossing. 

The protesters want Pakistan to allow them to continue using the special permits for business purposes and to meet with relatives who live in the Afghan border city of Spin Boldak. 

In Afghanistan, the Taliban-led administration says it is providing shelter and food to returnees. According to Tolo News, an private Afghan outlet, Afghan refugees have complained of mistreatment by Pakistani soldiers after returning home. 

The alleged mistreatment of migrants by Pakistani authorities drew widespread condemnation from human organizations. 

On Tuesday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said Pakistani authorities have committed widespread abuses against Afghans living in the country to compel their return home. 

“Pakistani officials have created a coercive environment for Afghans to force them to return to life-threatening conditions in Afghanistan,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately end the abuses and give Afghans facing expulsion the opportunity to seek protection in Pakistan.” 

Pakistani authorities have denied such allegations, saying anyone found guilty of mistreating Afghan immigrants lacking permanent legal status would be punished. Achakzai said migrants who are in the country illegally are held at deporting centers in a dignified manner before transporting them to border crossings so they can go back home. 

Another appeal filed in Pakistan top court against deportation of Afghan nationals

Updated 30 November 2023

Another appeal filed in Pakistan top court against deportation of Afghan nationals

  • Thousands of Afghans, many of whom lived in Pakistan for decades, have left under government’s deportation policy
  • Petition says government committing violations of human rights, constitution and international law with new policy

ISLAMABAD: A group of top academics on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the government’s campaign to deport Afghans and seeking orders to restrain law enforcement agencies from implementing the expulsion policy.

Islamabad last month announced it would expel over a million undocumented migrants, mostly Afghans, amid a row with Kabul over charges that it harbors anti-Pakistan militants. Since the announcement of the deportation drive on Oct. 3, tens of thousands of Afghans, many of whom have lived in Pakistan for decades, have had to leave the country, and authorities are rounding up many more in raids across the country.

Politicians and right activists earlier this month moved the Supreme Court against the government’s deportation order. The latest plea has been filed by six faculty members of the country’s top higher education institute, the Lahore University of Management Sciences, under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. The case is fixed for hearing on Dec. 1.

Article 184 (3) empowers the Supreme Court to hear cases from individuals who believe their fundamental rights have been violated and the issue is of public importance.

The plea names the federation, all four provinces, the Islamabad chief commissioner, the chief commissioner for Afghan refugees, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), the director general of Immigration and Passports and the United National High Commissioner for Afghan refugees as respondents.

It stated that the petitioners, as concerned citizens, were compelled to file the plea in the interest of poor Afghans living in Pakistan, “whether refugees, asylum seekers, so-called illegal foreigners or Pakistani citizens of Afghan origin.”

“This petition is necessitated due to the serious human rights abuses and blatant violation of the Constitution and international law being committed by the federal government, the provincial government and other government authorities in the name of Pakistan.”

The plea said the caretaker government’s decision to expel Afghans “is not contained in any formal written letter” and does not “appear to have been passed under any legal authority such as the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any other statute.”

The petition highlighted that during the process of expulsion, Rs50,000 was taken from Afghan nationals at the borders while many were forced to abandon their homes, properties and businesses in Pakistan.

“Since the impugned decision was made and the expiry of the deadline was given, Afghans are being subjected to forced expulsion, harassment, extortion, physical abuse, racial discrimination, separation from family members, and inhumane treatment in violation of their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and international law,” the plea said.

In the 1980s, millions of Afghans fled to neighboring Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of their country. The numbers witnessed a spike after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.

Even before the expulsion drive began, Afghans have long complained about constant harassment due to the lack of citizenship rights for those who have spent decades living and working in Pakistan.

Human rights activists have for years called for Afghans born in the country to be given nationality in accordance with Pakistani law, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the country, except for children of diplomats and enemy aliens.