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.”


Boycott calls add to India-Pakistan cricket tensions ahead of World Cup clash in Dubai

Updated 20 October 2021

Boycott calls add to India-Pakistan cricket tensions ahead of World Cup clash in Dubai

  • India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai which it blamed on Pakistan
  • Indian atheletes say ‘sports and politics should not be mixed’ and the World Cup match between the two countries should go on

Dubai: Cricket tensions between India and Pakistan have been heightened by boycott calls in India ahead of their T20 World Cup clash on Sunday.
A series of killings in the disputed Kashmir region has set off the anger, even though the Indian board has insisted the national team cannot withdraw from the game.
Decades of bitter rivalry between the neighbors often clouds their cricket encounters. India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai which India blamed on Pakistan.
Now they only play each other in international events. The last meeting was at the 50-over World Cup two years ago but even that was at the center of boycott calls.
The killings of 11 migrant workers and minority Hindus and Sikhs in Indian-administered Kashmir have led to the latest demands made in India, which frequently accuses Pakistan of backing Kashmir militant groups. The hashtag #BlacklistPakistan was trending on Twitter Wednesday.
Rajeev Shukla, the Board of Control for Cricket in India vice president, said earlier that the country had a contractual obligation to take part.
“We strongly condemns the killings. However, under the International Cricket Council’s commitments, you can’t refuse to play any one (game),” Shukla told Indian media.
A cabinet minister, Giriraj Singh, had also urged the government to consider intervening to stop the match.
“I think if relations are not good, then this should be reconsidered,” Singh said when questioned about the match. Other politicians have also joined the calls.
However, India’s badminton great Prakash Padukone said, “sports and politics should not be mixed and according to me it (the India-Pakistan match) should go on.”
India was also urged to boycott the 2019 World Cup game against Pakistan because of a Kashmir suicide bomber attack in February of that year in which more than 40 troops were killed.
Pakistan denied any role in the assault but the two countries came to the brink of war. India won the game which went ahead in June 2019.
India and Pakistan last played a bilateral series in 2013 during a brief thaw in their rivalry.
The two countries have fought two wars over Kashmir — divided between the two nations — since their independence in 1947.


Bomb hits security vehicle in northwest Pakistan, killing four

Updated 20 October 2021

Bomb hits security vehicle in northwest Pakistan, killing four

  • The attack happened in Bajaur, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan
  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack, though suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban based in Afghanistan

PESHAWAR: A roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying security forces in a former stronghold of local militants in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing four, police said.
The attack happened in Bajaur, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The area served as a base for the Pakistani Taliban until a few years ago, when the army said it cleared the region of insurgents. But the violence has continued there.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack.
Senior police officer Abdul Samad Khan said two police officers and two soldiers were killed in the attack. He said troops launched a search operation in the region to find those who orchestrated the attack.
Khan refused to speculate on who could be behind the attack.
But suspicion fell on Pakistan’s own Taliban who have been emboldened by the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where thousands of Pakistani militants are still believed to be hiding.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,400-kilometer (1,500-mile) internationally recognized border known as the Durand Line, which was drawn in the 19th century when the British dominated South Asia. Kabul has never recognized the boundary.
Before the the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan often accused each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along the porous frontier.


At Moscow meet, Pakistan urges global powers to continue economic engagement with Afghanistan

Updated 20 October 2021

At Moscow meet, Pakistan urges global powers to continue economic engagement with Afghanistan

  • Ambassador Sadiq asks world to unfreeze Afghanistan assets to avert economic meltdown
  • Pakistan advocates enhanced cooperation with Afghanistan to address challenges such as global terrorism

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday urged the international community to continue its economic engagements with Afghanistan to prevent another humanitarian disaster in the region, adding it was imperative in this context to unfreeze the Afghan financial assets parked in other countries.
Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq, highlighted the issue while addressing a major international conference in Moscow that brought together officials from various regional countries.
The international community froze nearly $10 billion of Afghanistan’s financial assets in other countries after the fall of Kabul on August 15 since the money was viewed as a key instrument to mount political pressure on the Taliban.
Sadiq said in a Twitter post on Wednesday he proposed three “broad contours of engagement with Afghanistan” while speaking at the Moscow forum.
These included “extending urgent humanitarian support to Afghanistan, to remain economically engaged to [avert] financial meltdown [by] de-freezing of Afghanistan’s foreign assets … [and] enhance cooperation [with Kabul] to address common challenges, such as combatting terrorism, trans-national crime and border management,” he wrote on the social media platform.


Sadiq said the “international community must not abandon Afghanistan at this critical juncture.”
Meanwhile, Russia stepped up pressure on the Taliban to create an inclusive administration during the conference which was also attended by China, Iran, India and Central Asian countries.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by Reuters as saying that he regretted the US absence from the talks, the biggest international meeting on the region since the Taliban victory in August.
Russia previously said it was not a rush to recognize the Taliban, as officials in Moscow noted the former Afghan rebel faction should fulfil its political commitments on human rights and political inclusivity to the world at large.
The Taliban deputy prime minister, Abdul Salam Hanafi, told the forum that “isolating Afghanistan is in no one’s interest.”
He added the Taliban had moved as quickly as possible on opening up their government and guaranteeing rights to women, reported Reuters, while adding that the Afghan faction did not represent a threat to any other country.

 


‘I am not at peace,’ Noor Mukadam’s mother says at protest demonstration in Islamabad

Updated 20 October 2021

‘I am not at peace,’ Noor Mukadam’s mother says at protest demonstration in Islamabad

  • ‘Noor was also a woman and I’m a mother and a woman too,’ says Kausar Mukadam while reacting to the bail of Asmat Adamjee in the murder case
  • A district court judge snubs the prime suspect, Zahir Jaffer, for violating the court’s decorum by trying to speak during the proceedings

ISLAMABAD: Family and friends of Noor Mukadam, a 27-year-old woman who was brutally murdered on July 20 in Islamabad, urged the judiciary to deliver swift justice in the case on Wednesday as they demanded the killer to be hanged as soon as possible.
About a dozen of these protesters gathered in front of the Parliament House as they sought early justice for Mukadam, the daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat Shaukat Mukadam, two days after the Supreme Court granted bail to Asmat Adamjee, the mother of the prime suspect, Zahir Jaffer, who, along with her husband, Zakir Jaffer, was arrested for allegedly abetting the crime.
Mukadam’s beheaded body was found at the Jaffer residence in Islamabad on July 20, after which their three household staff, namely Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel, were also arrested.
“I am not at peace. I can’t sleep,” Kausar Mukadam, the victim’s mother, said while speaking to the media outside the Parliament House. “You don’t know, my daughter was a center of attraction in our home. I keep looking for her in my home. We won’t be at peace until we get justice.”

Noor Mukadam's family and friends hold a protest demonstration in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 20, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Justice for Noor)

The participants of the gathering, including Mukadam’s parents, were carrying placards seeking swift justice in the case, though they also expressed confidence and trust in the judiciary.
“She [Noor Mukadam] was the youngest in our home, and we all used to treat her as a baby,” her mother said. “She was a soft spoken person who used to play with children.”
Discussing Asmat Adamjee’s bail which was granted to her for being a woman, she said: “Noor was also a woman, and I’m a mother and a woman too. I also deserve sympathy. I am hopeful the judiciary will give us justice.”
Kausar Mukadam maintained all suspects in the case were involved in the murder since none of them helped her daughter escape. “No one should get bail and they should be punished,” she said.

People seeking swift justice in the Noor Mukadam murder case hold placards during a protest demonstration in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 20, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Justice for Noor)

Shaukat Mukadam, the victim’s father, said his family would accept the courts’ verdicts in the case, though he added that people were “disappointed with the [Supreme Court bail] decision.”
“The murderer should be hanged as soon as possible,” he said.
Separately, a district and sessions judge Atta Rabbani recorded the statement of a police witness in the case and adjourned the hearing until October 27.
As per the directions of the Islamabad High Court, the district court is required to complete the murder trial within a period of eight weeks.


The judge also snubbed Zahir Jaffer during the proceedings for violating the court’s decorum by trying to speak during the hearing.
“Don’t interrupt the proceedings,” the judge remarked while ordering the police to keep the suspect quiet in the courtroom.
His mother, Adamjee, requested the court during the proceedings to allow her to live in the F-7 residence where the gruesome murder had taken place since she had to stay in the federal capital to attend all the court hearings.
“This is your home, you can live there,” the judge said while Adamjee’s lawyer requested the court to put it on record to avoid any legal complications.

 

 


Pakistani rupee hits all-time low against dollar amid uncertainty surrounding IMF talks

Updated 20 October 2021

Pakistani rupee hits all-time low against dollar amid uncertainty surrounding IMF talks

  • Separately, the stock market rebounded on Wednesday and posted 1.95 percent gains at closing
  • Pakistan and IMF are currently engaged in talks for release of $1 billion tranche of $6 billion bailout package

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s national currency on Wednesday hit another historic low of Rs173.47 against the United State dollar (USD) amid uncertainty surrounding ongoing talks between officials from the IMF and Pakistan for the release of the latest tranche of a bailout package, traders and analysts said. 
In 2019, Pakistan reached an accord with the International Monetary Fund for a three-year, $6 billion bailout package aimed at shoring up fragile public finances and strengthening a slowing economy.
Pakistani and IMF officials are currently engaged in a fresh round of talks for the release of a $1 billion tranche of the loan.
The central bank said the Pakistani rupee closed up by 0.40 percent at Rs173.47 against the greenback in the interbank market as compared to Rs172.78 at the close of last week. The currency also depreciated in the open market where it was trading at Rs174 for buying and Rs174.50 for selling against the greenback, according to the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP). 
“The open market is following the interbank market where Pak rupee is under pressure,” ECAP general secretary Zafar Parach said. 
“There are no more sellers in the open market due to the uncertain outcome of talks with the IMF and volumes have declined substantially,” Paracha added. “The daily trading volume in the open market has declined from around $100-around to $50-60 million.” 
Analysts said the rupee was under pressure in the interbank market due to increasing imports and a plunging current account deficit.
“The demand for import payments is still high which is pushing the demand for the greenback,” Samiullah Tariq, Director Research at Pakistan Kuwait Investment, told Arab News. 
However, the stock market rebounded on Wednesday and posted 1.95 percent gains, or 45,499.46 points, at closing. 
“The market has now got an understanding that it cannot move the dollar,” Tariq said. “The dollar movement is not part and parcel of trade and there is no panic.”