PM Khan tells international community strengthening Taliban will help Afghan people

In this image taken from video provided by UN Web TV, Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, remotely addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in a pre-recorded message, Friday Sept. 24, 2021 at UN headquarters. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 25 September 2021

PM Khan tells international community strengthening Taliban will help Afghan people

  • The Pakistani leader warns the United Nations General Assembly a chaotic Afghanistan will once again become a militant sanctuary
  • The prime minister wants the world body to convene a ‘global dialogue’ to counter Islamophobia in a prerecorded statement

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday asked the international community to stabilize and strengthen Afghanistan’s Taliban regime to preserve the gains made over the past two decades and prevent the war-torn country from becoming a safe haven of militant factions.
In a prerecorded speech delivered at the 76th United Nations General Assembly session, the Pakistani leaders touched upon a range of topics, including Islamophobia and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Focusing his attention on the current situation in Afghanistan, Khan said that about 90 percent of the people in that country were likely to fall below the poverty line by the next year, adding that such an economic implosion could have serious repercussions for everyone.
“There is only one way to go,” he said. “We must strengthen and stabilize the current [Taliban] government for the sake of the people of Afghanistan.”
The prime minister also maintained that a chaotic Afghanistan could once again become a sanctuary for global militant networks while pointing to the fact that such factions were the fundamental reason why the US invaded the war-battered country two decades ago.
He said the Taliban had promised to respect human rights, have an inclusive government and not allow their soil to be used by terrorists.
“If the world community incentivizes them, and encourages them to walk this talk, it will be a win-win situation for everyone,” he noted.
The prime minister said Pakistan had tremendously suffered after joining the US-led war on terror in 2001.
He said that his country lost 80,000 people and $150 billion for siding with the US.
“We were called collaborators [by the militants],” he said. “They declared jihad on us.”
Khan recalled that the US conducted 480 drone attacks on Pakistani soil which fueled militancy since such attacks were not always precise and resulted in significant collateral damage.
“People whose relatives had been killed sought revenge against Pakistan,” he said. “Between 2004 and 2014, there were 50 different militant groups attacking the State of Pakistan.”
“At one point,” he continued, “people like us were worried, that will we survive this? There were bombs going all over Pakistan. Our capital was like a fortress. Had it not been for one of the most disciplined armies in the world and one of the best intelligence agencies in the world, I think Pakistan would have gone down.”

STOLEN ASSETS

Discussing the flight of capital from poor nations to safe havens in developed countries, Khan said it was increasing the gap between the rich and the poor countries at an alarming speed.
He noted the UN secretary general’s high-level panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) has calculated that a staggering seven trillion dollars in stolen assets were parked in the financial haven destinations.
The prime minister warned if the practice was not curbed, it would trigger a “mass exodus of economic migrants toward the richer nations.”
He said it was impossible to retrieve these stolen assets from the developed countries for poor nations, adding that the rich countries had no incentives or compulsion to return this wealth that belonged to the masses in the developing world.
“I foresee, in the not-too-distant future a time will come when the rich countries will be forced to build walls to keep out economic migrants from these poor countries,” he said.
Khan urged the UN to develop a comprehensive legal framework to halt and reverse the illicit financial flows to stop this “grave economic injustice.”

ISLAMOPHOBIA

The prime minister also discussed the issue of Islamophobia while highlighting New Delhi’s policies in Indian-administered Kashmir. He noted that terrorism had been associated with Islam among certain international quarters in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
“This has increased the tendency of right-wing, xenophobic and violent nationalists, extremists and terrorist groups to target Muslims,” he said.
Khan urged the UN secretary general to convene a “global dialogue” to counter the rise of Islamophobia in the world.
“The worst and most pervasive form of Islamophobia now rules India,” he said, adding that the proponents of Hindutva ideology had unleashed a “reign of fear and violence” against India’s Muslim community of 200 million.
“It is unfortunate, very unfortunate, that the world’s approach to violations of human rights lacks even-handedness, and even is selective,” he said. “Geopolitical considerations, or corporate interests, commercial interests often compel major powers to overlook the transgressions of their affiliated countries.”
He said Pakistan wanted peace with its nuclear-armed neighbor India, but “the onus remains on India to create a conducive environment for meaningful and result-oriented engagement with Pakistan.”
“India’s military build-up, development of advanced nuclear weapons, and acquisition of destabilizing conventional capabilities, can erode mutual deterrence between the two countries,” he warned.

COVID-19 AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Speaking on the coronavirus pandemic, the prime minister said Pakistan had successfully contained the disease through a calibrated strategy of smart lockdowns that helped save the lives and livelihoods of its people and kept the national economy afloat.
He also described climate change as one of the primary existential threats to the planet while pointing out that his country’s contribution to global emissions was negligible, though it was still among the 10 most vulnerable places to the effects of climate change in the world.
Khan said Pakistan had embarked upon several “game-changing environmental programs” by planting 10 billion trees, preserving natural habitats and switching to renewable energy.
He urged the General Assembly to ensure vaccine equity, adequate financing for developing countries through debt restructuring to address the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change challenges.
“We must adopt clear investment strategies which help alleviate poverty, promote job creation, build sustainable infrastructure, and of course bridge the digital divide,” he added.


In Pakistan’s Khaplu valley, autumn foliage becomes ‘blessing’ fuel for winter survival

Updated 19 sec ago

In Pakistan’s Khaplu valley, autumn foliage becomes ‘blessing’ fuel for winter survival

  • Villagers collect dry leaves between late November and early December to use as fuel during freezing winters
  • In the absence of reliable gas or electricity sources, people have found alternative means to heat their homes 

KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: When autumn arrives in Khaplu valley with its foliage of boastful reds, yellows and copper browns, families welcome it as a “blessing” — not for the colorful spectacle, but for the fuel the falling leaves will become when burnt come winter, helping locals survive the harsh weather in Pakistan’s mountainous north.
The valley in the northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan, surrounded by some of Pakistan’s highest peaks and glaciers, is home to over 24,000 people who remain largely cut off from the rest of the country in the winter months when temperatures can fall below minus 20 degrees Celsius.
In the absence of reliable gas or electricity sources, residents have had to find alternative means of heating their homes. One option is burning the colorful leaves that fall in autumn, which locals call “gold” and diligently collect between late November and early December to use as burning fuel in the winter ahead.
“We don’t waste dried leaves because they are the main source of heating for us,” Muhammad Jaffar, a 68-year-old resident of Garbong village, told Arab News.
Jaffar, a member of the village’s welfare committee, which is responsible for leaf collection and distribution, said the dried leaves were “the biggest blessing.”
The collection and distribution of dried leaves among Garbong’s 130 households takes almost a week. Each household nominates a woman representative and does not receive leaves if it fails to do so. The same practice is observed in all other villages in Khaplu valley.
Muhammad Ali, who summons residents using a mosque loudspeaker every morning during the week to collect their share of leaves from the nearby Stronpi village, said leaf collection rules and exact dates were established years ago to avoid conflict.
“Fifteen years ago, women would fight each other for dried leaves,” he said. “Now, the committee monitors all affairs of the village from mosque to working in the fields and personal disputes as well as dried leaf collection.”
Once distributed among village households, the leaves are burnt in the open air. When they stop giving off smoke, they are brought into the kitchen in a metal pot, placed under a special square table and covered with a blanket or quilt.
“Family members nestle around the table with the brunt leaves placed under it,” Stronpi resident Sajid Ali said.
Fatima, a village’s elder who only gave her first name, said there was a special room in her basement to store the leaves during winter.
“Without dried leaves, how could we spend the winter days?” she said. “It’s only seasonal dried leaves, but for us it is like gold.”


Pakistani energy minister denies unemployment rising, says economy to grow 5% this year

Updated 04 December 2021

Pakistani energy minister denies unemployment rising, says economy to grow 5% this year

  • Hammad Azhar says it is not right to blame the government for rising inflation since it cannot do much about global commodity prices
  • Pakistani opposition parties have been questioning the government's economic performance, though officials maintain they are misleading people

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's energy minister Hammad Azhar denied on Saturday unemployment was rising in the country, adding that the national economy was estimated to grow at five percent during the current year.
The government's economic performance has been widely criticized as Pakistan's national currency has drastically lost its value and its import bill has significantly mounted.
The country has also been forced to undertake economic reforms by the International Monetary Fund which agreed to offer a $6 billion bailout package to the administration in Islamabad in July 2019.
"Pakistan's economy is projected to grow at five percent this year," Azhar told the country's state-run PTV channel. "When an economy is growing at that rate, unemployment cannot rise: It can only decline."
Quoting a World Bank assessment, the minister said poverty had also come down in Pakistan despite the economic challenges triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
He maintained it was not right to blame the government for rising inflation since it could not do much about global commodity prices.
The country's opposition parties have questioned the government's economic performance in recent weeks, though Azhar maintained they were misleading people.


Sri Lankan factory manager was not on good terms with Pakistani workers — local media

Updated 04 December 2021

Sri Lankan factory manager was not on good terms with Pakistani workers — local media

  • Priyantha Kumara, who was lynched by a mob in Sialkot, was accused of blasphemy after he removed a poster with religious inscription from factory’s wall
  • According to police investigation, he did not know the local language and apologized to workers after the incident

ISLAMABAD: A Sri Lankan factory manager who worked with a garment manufacturing company in Pakistan and was lynched by a mob on blasphemy allegation was not too popular with workers who had lodged several complaints against him with the owners of the facility, reported a local news channel on Saturday.
Sharing the findings of the criminal investigation into the case, Geo News said Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana “worked as an honest general manager” in the country’s southeastern Sialkot district where he looked after the production work and strictly implemented factory regulations.
“On the day of the incident, Priyantha Kumara visited the production unit where he reprimanded the supervisor for not keeping the place clean,” reported the news channel, adding the same person allegedly instigated workers against the Sri Lankan manager.
“According to the police, Priyantha Kumara had asked workers to remove posters and stickers from the walls which were being painted,” Geo News added. “He also took off some posters himself including one with a religious inscription which led to an outcry. However, he apologized to people on the instruction of his factory owners.”
The investigation also revealed Diyawadana did not know the local language and frequently faced communication problems at work.
While the issue had seemingly settled down after his apology, some workers continued to instigate people who physically attacked him.
The Sri Lankan factory manager ran to the roof where he wanted to hide, but a group of angry workers also chased him over there.
As Diyawadana’s body was dragged by the mob to the road, the security guards deployed at the building left the facility without making an effort to rescue him. His corpse was publicly set on fire in the presence of hundreds of people, many of whom filmed the incident before posting the video clips on social media.
The Pakistani prime minister described it as “a day of shame” for his country, though more than a hundred people were arrested by the police after the incident who are currently being investigated.


OIC countries to discuss Afghanistan crisis in Pakistan on December 19

Updated 04 December 2021

OIC countries to discuss Afghanistan crisis in Pakistan on December 19

  • There have been growing warnings of the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan since international aid was abruptly cut following the Taliban takeover
  • Pakistan has also invited the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China to the meeting of Islamic countries

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's foreign minister called on Saturday for a fresh effort to stop neighboring Afghanistan from sliding further into crisis as he announced an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) later this month.

The meeting of foreign ministers from Islamic countries will be held in Islamabad on December 19, with delegations from the European Union and the so-called P5 group of the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China also invited.

"To abandon Afghanistan at this stage would be a historic mistake," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad, warning that half the country was facing the risk of starvation that could trigger further chaos.

"Instability could give way to renewed conflict, it could trigger an exodus of refugees," he said.

There have been growing warnings of the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan since international aid was abruptly cut following the Taliban takeover on August 15 and fears of disaster if the situation is not brought under control.

However, getting help in has been hindered by sanctions on dealing with the Taliban, the US decision to freeze billions of dollars of central bank reserves held outside Afghanistan and the collapse of much of the country's banking system.

Pakistan recently agreed to allow 50,000 tons of wheat to transit through its territory from India to help Afghanistan but aid agencies have warned that much more help is urgently needed.


Sri Lankan president says expects justice from Pakistan after lynching of citizen over alleged blasphemy

Updated 04 December 2021

Sri Lankan president says expects justice from Pakistan after lynching of citizen over alleged blasphemy

  • Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana was beaten to death and set ablaze by mob in an incident Pakistan’s prime minister described as ‘day of shame’
  • President Gotabaya Rajapaksa urges the government to ensure the safety of all other Sri Lankan nationals in Pakistan

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Saturday he was deeply saddened by the brutal assassination of a citizen in Pakistan on blasphemy allegation, but praised the administration in Islamabad for taking steps to ensure justice.

Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, who worked at a factory in Pakistan’s eastern city of Sialkot, was beaten to death and set ablaze by a mob on Friday, in an incident that Prime Minister Imran Khan described as a “day of shame” for Pakistan.

Sri Lankan foreign ministry spokesperson Sugeeshwara Gunaratne told Arab News the victim was in his late forties and survived by his wife and two children below 10 years of age.

The Pakistani prime minister said in a Twitter post he had spoken to the Sri Lankan president “to convey our nation’s anger & shame” over Diyawadana’s killing in Sialkot city, adding that over a hundred people had been arrested in the case and would be prosecuted.

“As an ardent friend of Pakistan, Sri Lanka commends the actions taken by the Government of Pakistan led by Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure justice, immediately after this brutal assassination,” the Sri Lankan president said. “The Sri Lankan Government and the people of Sri Lanka look forward with great confidence on the future steps that will be taken by the Government of Pakistan in this regard.”

“I also urge the Government of Pakistan to ensure the safety of all other Sri Lankans living in Pakistan,” he said.

Armagan Gondal, a police chief in Sialkot district where the killing occurred in Pakistan’s Punjab province, told media factory workers had accused the victim of desecrating posters bearing the name of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said it was “shocking” to see the brutal and fatal attack on Diyawadana by extremist mobs in Pakistan.

“My heart goes out to his wife and family,” he wrote on Twitter. “Sri Lanka and her people are confident that PM Imran Khan will keep to his commitment to bring all those involved to justice.”

The Sri Lankan foreign ministry said it was in the process of verifying the incident with Pakistani authorities, adding that it expected Islamabad to take “required action” to investigate the matter and ensure justice.

“The Sri Lanka High Commission in Islamabad is in the process of verifying the details of the incident from the Pakistan authorities,” it said in a tweet.

“Sri Lanka expects that the #Pakistan authorities will take required action to investigate and ensure justice. We are awaiting results of further #investigations and working with all parties concerned to bring the remains home.”

Sri Lanka’s Muslim Civil Society Alliance also expressed shock and dismay over the lynching of a national in Pakistan, calling it a “barbaric crime.”

“This is an extremely shameful and barbaric crime and should not be tolerated,” it said in a statement. “Extrajudicial vigilantism cannot be condoned at any cost by anyone, no matter which religion, ethnicity or nationality they belong to.”

In his message on Twitter, Pakistan’s information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said he had been thinking what to write on the Sialkot lynching since words had lost their value after such incidents.

“Such incidents only pain us for 48 hours and then everything returns to normal and conscience remains buried until the next such incident occurs,” he wrote on the social media platform.

“This apathy is an indication of a bigger storm,” Hussain continued. “Rivers of blood have flown before us in countries [around the world].”

Few issues are as galvanizing in Pakistan as blasphemy, and even the slightest suggestion of an insult to Islam can supercharge protests and incite lynching.

Video footage of the incident in Sialkot shared on electronic and social media showed hundreds of people gathered outside the factory, amid plumes of smoke rising from a spot in the center of the crowd where the perpetrators had reportedly burnt the body of the victim after beating him to death.

Other videos showed a mob dragging a man’s heavily bruised body out to the street, where they burned it in the presence of hundreds of demonstrators who cheered on the killers.

Many in the mob made no attempt to hide their identity and some took selfies in front of the burning corpse.

The slogans chanted in the social media videos were the same used by supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a religious political party that has railed against blasphemy on its rise to prominence.

The TLP has in the past paralyzed the country with protests, including an anti-France campaign after Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last year republished cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The group was only unbanned last month and its leader freed from detention after another period of civil unrest in which seven police officers were killed.

Friday’s attack came less than a week after a Muslim mob burned a police station and four police posts in northwest Pakistan after officers refused to hand over a man accused of desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an. No officers were hurt in the attacks in Charsadda, a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.