Hundreds of Afghan nationals deported from Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province — official

Afghanistan's and Pakistani nationals gather to enter Afghanistan as they wait for the reopening of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on September 2, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 18 September 2021

Hundreds of Afghan nationals deported from Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province — official

  • The United Nations has urged the Pakistani authorities to accept Afghan refugees who may be at risk in their own country
  • Pakistani officials say the government has decided to crack down on illegal immigrants and asylum seekers arriving on its territory

KARACHI: Pakistani authorities have deported hundreds of Afghan nationals who illegally entered the country to take refuge in Balochistan and Sindh provinces following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, officials confirmed while talking to Arab News on Friday.
The United Nations has urged Pakistan to accept Afghan refugees who may be at risk in their country.
UN refugee commissioner Filippo Grandi recently told a group of journalists in Islamabad he was appealing to the “humanitarian spirit” in Pakistan to be sympathetic to Afghan nationals with special protection needs.
“All illegal immigrants who entered Pakistan without legal documents and were residing in Balochistan have been deported to their home country,” Liaquat Shahwani, Balochistan government’s spokesperson, informed.
Shahwani added it was the stated policy of the federal and provincial administrations to deport illegal immigrants.
Pakistan experienced the first Afghan refugee influx over four decades ago when the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
According to the UN refugee agency, 1.4 million Afghans still live in the 54 camps across the country despite the voluntary repatriation programs.
Afghan refugee settlements are also located on the outskirts of large urban centers like Karachi and Islamabad. Official estimates suggest there may be one million more unregistered Afghan nationals in the country as well.
Hundreds of new Afghan refugees arrived in Pakistan after the Taliban consolidated their political control over the neighboring state last month amid claims of strict border management by Pakistani officials. Addressing at a news conference in Karachi a few weeks ago, information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said the country would not allow illegal immigrants like it did in 1979.
The Balochistan government spokesperson told Arab News that a high-level meeting on the province’s security situation was held two days ago in which the participants discussed the fresh Afghan refugee influx.
He said the meeting decided to “carry out a crackdown on illegal immigrants and asylum seekers.”
“Apart from that, strict monitoring of the province’s entry points will also be ensured to prevent illegal immigrants from reaching Balochistan,” Shahwani said while refusing to share the exact number of deportees.
Kashif Haidery, a social activist in the province, said over 5,000 Afghan nationals had taken refuge in Quetta and a majority of them had either been deported or went back on their own.
“Afghan refugees arrived in Quetta after the Taliban takeover to save their lives,” he said. “Many of them faced the accommodation problem and stayed at Imambargahs and marriage halls on humanitarian grounds. Local welfare organizations provided them food on a daily basis.”
Speaking to Arab News, Zahid Pakhtun, a social activist in Balochistan, said that those entering from Afghanistan had not gone to a refugee camp in the province.
“No refugee went to the camps,” he said. “They either stayed in Quetta or moved on to Karachi since they wanted jobs or travel to the United States or Europe for asylum.”
Hundreds of Afghan nationals, who traveled to Karachi after the fall of the Ashraf Ghani administration in Kabul on August 15, faced a crackdown in recent days and a substantial number of them were sent to the border for deportation.
“The police visited our camp last week and asked the elders to gather the newcomers so they could receive official aid from Pakistan,” Naeem Karimi, a youth living in a camp near Karachi told Arab News, adding that these refugees were rounded up and taken to the Chaman border in eight buses after they gathered to get the government’s assistance.
Saqib Ismail, deputy inspector general of police in Karachi’s district east, where most of the refugees reside, confirmed that illegal immigrants were deported, though he did not share their exact number.
Khairullah Khan, an Afghan refugee who arrived in Karachi with his parents, wife, two sisters and four children from Mazar-i-Sharif earlier this month, said his family had escaped deportation for the time being since he could not reach the camp on time.
“We are here without legal documents and the police are chasing us,” he continued. “The efforts we did and the hardships we faced during our long and painful journey will go in vain if we are sent back.”
Khan said the Afghan nationals arriving in Pakistan should be allowed to stay until the political uncertainty comes to an end in the neighboring country.
“The economic condition has badly deteriorated in Afghanistan,” he added. “None of us crossed the border to be sent back. We are getting two pieces of bread in our meals in Pakistan but at least our lives are safe here.”


Pakistani physician elected to National Academy of Medicine, one of highest honors in medicine 

Updated 57 min 23 sec ago

Pakistani physician elected to National Academy of Medicine, one of highest honors in medicine 

  • Dr. Anita Zaidi is president for gender equality at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • She was elected “for global leadership in paediatric infectious disease research and capacity development“

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani physician Dr. Anita Zaidi was elected this week to the National Academy of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.
Founded in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is one of three academies that make up the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies) in the United States. Operating under the 1863 Congressional charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that work outside of government to provide objective advice on matters of science, technology, and health.
The Academy said Zaidi, president for gender equality and director of vaccine development and surveillance and of enteric and diarrheal diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was elected “for global leadership in paediatric infectious disease research and capacity development relevant to improving newborn and child survival in developing countries.”
Since joining the foundation in 2014, Zaidi has led a team focused on vaccine development for people in the poorest parts of the world, surveillance to identify and address causes of death in children in the most under-served areas, and significantly reducing the adverse consequences of diarrheal and enteric infections on children’s health in low and middle-income countries, according to the Gates Foundation website.
“Through this role, Anita champions innovative work on behalf of low-income women and children, including the creation of the Women Leaders in Global Health program— now called WomenLift Health— to promote diversity in global health leadership. She also works closely with the foundation’s Maternal Newborn Child Health Discovery & Tools program,” it said.
Previously, Anita was the department chair of Pediatrics and Child Health at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, where she worked to reduce child mortality through the prevention and treatment of illness.
She obtained her medical degree specializing in pediatric infectious diseases at Aga Khan University, and completed further training at Duke University, Boston’s Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Public Health. To date, Anita has published more than 200 research papers on vaccine-preventable diseases and newborn infections in resource-limited settings.
In 2013, Anita became the first recipient of the $1 million Caplow Children’s Prize for her pioneering work bringing health services and wraparound care to mothers and children in poverty-stricken communities in Karachi. She was also nominated as a notable physician of the year in 2014 by Medscape.
“It is my privilege to welcome this extraordinary class of new members. Their contributions to health and medicine are unmatched – they’ve made groundbreaking discoveries, taken bold action against social inequities, and led the response to some of the greatest public health challenges of our time,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau.
“This is also the NAM’s most diverse class of new members to date, composed of approximately 50 percent women and 50 percent racial and ethnic minorities. This class represents many identities and experiences – all of which are absolutely necessary to address the existential threats facing humanity. I look forward to working with all of our new members in the years ahead.”
The newly elected members bring NAM’s total membership to more than 2,200 and the number of international members to approximately 172.


Biden picks career diplomat for top posting in Pakistan 

Updated 43 min 10 sec ago

Biden picks career diplomat for top posting in Pakistan 

  • Donald Blome is currently US ambassador to Tunisia 
  • Pakistan is playing a major role in diplomacy with its Taliban-ruled neighbor

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden plans to nominate Donald Blome, currently ambassador to Tunisia, as his top diplomat in Pakistan as Washington works to manage the situation in neighboring Afghanistan following the withdrawal of American troops.
Biden on Tuesday will announce plans to nominate Blome to the job in Pakistan, the White House said. Blome is a career Foreign Service diplomat with long experience in the region who once worked in the Kabul embassy, shuttered earlier this year during the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Pakistan is playing a major role in diplomacy with its Taliban-ruled neighbor.
International agencies have warned that Afghanistan is on the verge of humanitarian collapse without access to aid or foreign reserves, which remain frozen in the United States.
Pakistan’s relationship with neighboring China has also been of interest to the Biden administration, which regards Beijing as its chief international rival.
Tunisia, where Blome has worked as ambassador since 2019, is an important diplomatic outpost for the United States in North Africa, representing interests beyond the country’s borders, including in neighboring Libya.

U.S. ambassador to Tunisia Donald Blome (L) pictured during his meeting with Tunisian Minister of Tourism Habib Ammar in Tunisia on February 17, 2021. (U.S. Embassy Tunis)

The ambassadorial position requires Senate confirmation.


FATF begins new plenary session, will determine Pakistan’s ‘grey list’ status

Updated 19 October 2021

FATF begins new plenary session, will determine Pakistan’s ‘grey list’ status

  • The watchdog put Pakistan on list of countries with inadequate terror funding and money laundering controls in June 2018
  • Outcome of the plenary to be announced on Thursday after meeting ends, Pakistan hopes for good news

ISLAMABAD: The Financial Action Task Force announced the beginning of its new plenary on Tuesday in which it will take up a number of issues and determine if Pakistan can be removed from a list of countries with strategic deficiencies in their financial system.
The global dirty money watchdog placed Pakistan on its “grey list” of countries in June 2018 since it found vulnerabilities in its financial system which could be exploited for terror financing and money laundering.
Pakistan has tried to address the FATF concerns by implementing the recommended action plan, and its progress has also been acknowledged by the international body.
“The Financial Action Task Force Plenary has started,” the FATF announced in a Twitter post. “Due to COVID-19 it is a hybrid meeting, with delegates from around the world meeting virtually and in person.”


According to a statement issued by the global watchdog, “the outcomes of the FATF Plenary will be published on Thursday 21 October, at the close of the meeting.”
The meeting, which is taking place under the German presidency of Dr. Marcus Pleyer, will also be observed by global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.
Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said earlier this year there was “no justification” for the FATF to keep his country on the grey list since it had taken extensive measures to curb money laundering and terror financing.
“We will have to see if the FATF is a technical forum or … being used for political purposes,” he added.
The global financial watchdog recently expressed satisfaction with Pakistan’s progress, though it also gave the country another action plan to fix a separate set of problems to strengthen the financial system further.

 


Pakistan, Russia, China willing to provide Afghanistan with aid, Moscow says

Updated 40 min 14 sec ago

Pakistan, Russia, China willing to provide Afghanistan with aid, Moscow says

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says official recognition of the Taliban is not under discussion for now
  • The United States did not join this round of talks in Moscow but said it planned to do so in the future

MOSCOW: Russia, China and Pakistan are willing to provide aid to Afghanistan, the Russian foreign ministry said on Tuesday, but Moscow said it was not yet ready to recognize the Taliban government.
The promise of humanitarian aid and economic support came after talks between Russian, Chinese and Pakistani officials, who will be joined by representatives of Afghanistan’s Islamist rulers at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was withholding recognition from the Taliban while waiting for them to fulfil promises they made when they took power, including on the political and ethnic inclusivity of the new government.
Critics say the former rebel movement is backtracking on pledges not to sideline women and minorities, or persecute foes.
“Official recognition of the Taliban is not under discussion for now,” Lavrov told reporters. “Like most of other influential countries in the region, we are in contact with them. We are prodding them to fulfil the promises they made when they came to power.”
RUSSIA SEEKS LEADERSHIP
In mid-August, the Afghan government collapsed as the United States and allies withdrew troops after 20 years on the ground, leading the Taliban to seize power in a lightning offensive.
Russia, which fought its own disastrous war in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, is trying to seize the diplomatic initiative to avoid instability in the wider region that could damage its interests.
In particular it is worried by the possibility of Islamist militants seeping into the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, a region Moscow views as a defensive buffer.
Other Russian officials have tempered expectations for Wednesday’s talks. The United States said it would not join this round but planned to do so in the future.
Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan, said last week he did not expect any major breakthrough at the talks.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov described them as “an attempt to know what will happen in Afghanistan going forward.”


Pakistan, Iran discuss situation in Afghanistan, call for 'close coordination'

Updated 19 October 2021

Pakistan, Iran discuss situation in Afghanistan, call for 'close coordination'

  • The Pakistani foreign minister says sustained international engagement is essential to address the situation in Afghanistan
  • The Iranian FM says Tehran fully supports Pakistan’s initiative for a regional approach on the war-battered country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi emphasized “close coordination” among Afghanistan’s neighboring states to ensure greater peace and stability in the region during a phone call with his Iranian counterpart on Tuesday.
According to the foreign office of Pakistan, Qureshi received a call from the Iranian foreign minister Dr. Hossein Amir Abdollahian who invited the Pakistan to participate in the second ministerial meeting of the neighboring countries of Afghanistan which is scheduled to be held in Tehran next week.
The Iranian official discussed the overall regional security situation during the conversation while pointing out that Tehran fully supported Pakistan’s initiative for a regional approach on Afghanistan.
“Foreign Minister Qureshi thanked his Iranian counterpart for the invitation and expressed the hope that the meeting would impart further impetus to the regional approach on the situation in Afghanistan,” the foreign office said in a statement. “He emphasized that close coordination was essential to help Afghanistan on path to peace, stability and development.”
Qureshi emphasized that sustained international engagement was essential in view of the evolving economic situation in Afghanistan.
“He expressed the hope that international community would ramp up provision of humanitarian assistance on urgent basis, in view of the upcoming winter season, and take steps to ensure economic stability in the country,” the statement added.
The first ministerial meeting of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries was held in September after Pakistan urged China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to come together and discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
The ministerial meeting was also preceded by a virtual meeting of the special representatives and envoys of the six neighboring states for Afghanistan.