Militants kill five Pakistani troops near Afghan border

Pakistani army soldiers gather near a vehicle at a border terminal in North Waziristan, on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, on January 27, 2019. (AFP/File)
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Updated 02 October 2021

Militants kill five Pakistani troops near Afghan border

  • Security forces were ambushed in the Spinwam area of North Waziristan
  • Attack was claimed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan but the Pakistani military did not confirm it

ISLAMABAD: Five Pakistani security personnel have been killed in a militant attack near the border with Afghanistan, the military said on Saturday.
The attack took place in the Spinwam area of North Waziristan, in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the military’s media wing, ISPR, said in a statement. The five security personnel killed were four Frontier Corps soldiers a Levies subinspector.
“Terrorists targeted security forces vehicle in Spinwam, North Waziristan,” the ISPR said. “Clearance operation is in progress to eliminate any terrorist found in the area.”
Earlier in the day, the attack was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but the ISPR did not confirm it.
The militant group, which is a separate entity from the Afghan Taliban, has carried out numerous past attacks in Pakistan, including the 2014 deadly attack on a Peshawar school that killed 154 people, mostly schoolchildren, and an attack on Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai.
Last month, President Arif Alvi and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced the government was willing to offer amnesty to TTP members if they renounced violence and adhered to the country’s constitution, but the group it was proud of its “struggle” and was not seeking forgiveness from anyone.
North Waziristan served as a headquarters for local and foreign militants in the 2000s, until 2017, when the Pakistani army completed several operations in the mountainous region.
Recently, attacks in the area have been on the rise, targeting mainly security forces.

Over 570,000 Afghans expelled since Pakistan deportation drive began last year — state media

Updated 9 sec ago

Over 570,000 Afghans expelled since Pakistan deportation drive began last year — state media

  • 9,685 Afghan nationals returned to Afghanistan in last ten days, Radio Pakistan says
  • Government says deportations not targeted at Afghans but all those living illegally in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Over half a million Afghans living in Pakistan have been repatriated to their home country since the government launched a deportation drive last year, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said on Tuesday, with almost 10,000 returning in the last ten days.

Until November last year before it began the deportation drive, Pakistan was home to over 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, about 1.7 million of whom were undocumented, according to the government. Afghans make up the largest portion of migrants, many of whom came after the Taliban took over Kabul in 2021, but a large number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The expulsion drive started after a spike in suicide bombings last year which the Pakistan government — without providing evidence — said mostly involves Afghans. Islamabad has also blamed them for smuggling and other militant violence and crime. At the time, cash-strapped Pakistan, navigating record inflation and a tough International Monetary Fund bailout program, also said undocumented migrants had drained its resources for decades.

At the same time, Islamabad insists the deportation drive is not aimed specifically at Afghans but at all those living illegally in Pakistan. 

“9,685 more illegal Afghan nationals returned to their country over the last ten days,” Radio Pakistan reported. “The [total] figure of illegal Afghan returnees has reached 577,239.”

In October 2023, Pakistan announced phase one of the ‘Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan’ with a 30-day deadline for “undocumented” aliens to leave the country or be subject to deportation, putting 1.4 million Afghan refugees at risk.

In phase two of the ‘repatriation plan,’ around 600,00 Afghans who hold Pakistan-issued Afghan citizenship cards (ACCs) will be expelled while phase three is expected to target those with UNHCR-issued Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.

The deportation drive has led to a spike in tensions between Pakistan and the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan. 

Islamabad accuses Afghans of being behind a spate of recent suicide attacks in the country and accuses the Taliban of harboring such militants. The Taliban deny the allegations and say Pakistan’s security issues are a domestic issue. 

Weather forecasters warn Pakistanis to stay indoors ahead of new heat wave

Updated 4 min 53 sec ago

Weather forecasters warn Pakistanis to stay indoors ahead of new heat wave

  • Health officials say hospitals have been instructed to set up emergency heatwave response centers to treat people
  • Doctors say heatstroke is a serious illness that occurs when one’s body temperature rises quickly amid sweltering heat

ISLAMABAD: Authorities in Pakistan on Tuesday urged people to stay indoors as the country is hit by an extreme heat wave that threatens to bring dangerously high temperatures and yet another round of glacial-driven floods.

Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, is shutting all schools for a week because of the heat, affecting an estimated 18 million students.

“The sweltering heat will continue this month,” said Zaheer Ahmed Babar, a senior official at the Pakistan Meteorological Department. He added that temperatures could reach up to 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 Fahrenheit) above the monthly average. This week could rise above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in many parts of the country, Babar said.

It’s the latest climate-related disaster to hit the country in recent years. Melting glaciers and growing monsoons have caused devastating floods, at one point submerging a third of the country.

Pakistan recorded its wettest April since 1961, with more than double the usual monthly rainfall, according to the national weather center. Last month’s heavy rains killed scores of people while destroyed property and farmland, experts say the country witnessed heavier rains because of climate change.

Pakistan is still trying to recover from $30 billion in losses caused by devastating climate-induced floods that killed 1,739 people in 2022.

According to health officials, hospitals were instructed to set up emergency heatwave response centers so that those affected by the scorching temperatures could be quickly treated.

Doctors say heatstroke is a serious illness that occurs when one’s body temperature rises quickly because of sweltering heat, potentially causing some to fall unconscious. A severe heatstroke can cause disability or death.

Some areas in Pakistan are also currently facing hours-long power outages.

“We were without electricity for hours on Monday,” said Ibrar Abbasi, who lives on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Scientists have long warned that climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and certain agricultural practices, will lead to more frequent and prolonged bouts of extreme weather, including hotter temperatures.

Babar said another intense heat wave will hit the country in June, when the temperature is likely to reach 45 degrees (113 Fahrenheit). He said people should drink a lot of water and avoid unnecessary travel. Farmers and other livestock owners should take measures to protect their animals during extreme heat, he said.

However, many people, especially laborers and construction workers in the impoverished nation, ask how they can stay indoors as their families will suffer if they don’t work.

“I am not feeling well because of the stifling heat, but I have to work,” said Ghulam Farid, who owns a small general store in Sheikhupra, a city in Punjab province.

Construction workers were seen sitting near a road on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, hoping to get a job. Among them was Mohammad Khursheed, 52, who said he has noticed a change in the patterns of seasons.

Pakistan calls for ‘adequate’ Muslim representation amid debate on UNSC reforms

Updated 11 min 8 sec ago

Pakistan calls for ‘adequate’ Muslim representation amid debate on UNSC reforms

  • UNSC reform has been a contentious issue since intergovernmental negotiations first started in 2009
  • Ambassador Munir Akram says UNSC expansion should not be done hastily or without consensus

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top diplomat at the United Nations on Tuesday reiterated the demand by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that Muslim countries have ‘adequate representation’ in any future expanded Security Council.

UNSC reforms have been a contentious issue since Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) began in 2009, with little progress due to deep divisions among member states. The crux of the debate revolves around whether to add new permanent members, whether such members should possess veto power, and how to ensure fair regional representation.

The Group of Four comprising Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, seek permanent seats but are facing opposition from the Uniting for Consensus group, which includes Pakistan and argues against new permanent seats while calling for a new category of renewable memberships.

“Today at IGN meeting, I reiterated OIC’s demand that any reform of UN Security Council, which doesn’t ensure adequate representation of Muslim Ummah, will not be acceptable to the Islamic world,” Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Munir Akram said in a social media post.

“This position is in line with an agreement on equitable representation of all groups,” he added.

According to the state-owned APP news agency, Akram said the issue of UNSC expansion had also come up for discussion at the recent Islamic Summit in Gambia which issued a communique, saying efforts to expand the 15-member body should not be subjected to artificial deadlines and should be made with consensus.

The UNSC currently has five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and 10 non-permanent members elected to serve for two years. 

The OIC is the second largest intergovernmental organization after the UN.

PM Sharif credits late President Raisi for strengthening Pak-Iran ties, promoting regional cooperation

Updated 18 min 50 sec ago

PM Sharif credits late President Raisi for strengthening Pak-Iran ties, promoting regional cooperation

  • Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, FM Amir-Abdollahian and seven others were confirmed dead on Monday in a helicopter crash 
  • Raisi arrived in Pakistan last month on three-day visit aimed at mending ties after Pakistan, Iran exchanged military strikes in January 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday paid tribute to late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for strengthening Pakistan-Iran relations and promoting regional cooperation, a day after Tehran confirmed he had died in a helicopter crash with the country’s foreign minister and other officials.

Iranian authorities first raised alarm on Sunday afternoon when they lost contact with Raisi’s helicopter as it flew through a fog-shrouded mountain area of the Jolfa region of East Azerbaijan province. The Iranian president, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and seven others were confirmed dead by state media on Monday after search-and-rescue teams found their crashed helicopter in a mountainous region of northern Iran. 

Chairing a meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad, Sharif offered his condolences over Raisi’s death, saying that Pakistan had lost “a friend who was like a brother.”

“Dr. Raisi will forever be remembered along with services to his nation, for promoting Pakistan-Iran relations and regional cooperation,” the Pakistani prime minister said. “His visit to Pakistan last month was an important milestone in further strengthening and stabilizing our bilateral relations.”

Sharif said Pakistan would continue with Raisi’s vision to promote Islamabad’s ties with Iran, adding that the Pakistani cabinet pays tribute to the late Iranian president for his “excellent services” for the region. 

“May Allah grant Iran’s President Dr. Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s foreign minister and their friends a high status in paradise,” he said. 

People mourn the death of Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash, during a condolence ceremony at the Iran Culture Centre in Karachi on May 20, 2024. (FP)

In April, Raisi arrived in Pakistan on a three-day official visit to Pakistan as the two Muslim neighbors sought to mend ties after unprecedented tit-for-tat military strikes earlier this year.

The Iranian president held delegation-level meetings in the Pakistani capital as well as one-on-one discussions with Pakistan’s prime minister, president, army chief, Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker.

During the visit, Raisi had also overseen the signing of eight agreements between the two countries that covered different fields, including trade, science technology, agriculture, health, culture, and judicial matters.

His death takes place as the Middle East remains unsettled by Israel’s war on Gaza, during which Raisi under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel last month. 

Under Raisi, Iran enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels, further escalating tensions with the West as Tehran also supplied bomb-carrying drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine and armed militia groups across the region.

Military courts no novelty in Pakistan but returning ‘with force’ — Amnesty International

Updated 47 min 7 sec ago

Military courts no novelty in Pakistan but returning ‘with force’ — Amnesty International

  • At least 103 people linked to May 9 riots currently being tried by army courts
  • Military courts operate under separate system from the civilian legal system

ISLAMABAD: Civilians should not be tried by military courts, Amnesty International Secretary-General Dr. Agnès Callamard said in an interview published on Tuesday, lamenting that the practice had been widely used in Pakistan’s history and was now returning “with force.”

Military courts have been in the spotlight since last year when hundreds of alleged supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party were arrested following riots on May 9 in which military and government installations were damaged. 

The government at the time as well as the army said those found to be behind attacks on military properties would be tried in army courts. At least 103 people linked to the May 9 riots are currently being tried in army courts, unleashing widespread criticism from within Pakistan and rights organizations globally over the courts’ secretive nature and existence alongside a functioning civilian legal system.

Last month, Pakistan freed at least 20 people previously detained by the military in connection with the May 9 riots.

“Civilians should not be tried by military courts,” Dr. Callamard said in an interview to Pakistan’s Dawn published on Tuesday, when asked about the military trial of civilians in Pakistan. “Sadly, it has happened throughout Pakistan’s history. Even though it is now coming back with force, it is not a novelty in Pakistan’s history.

“Pakistan is the only country in South Asia in recent history to allow military courts to play such a role vis à vis civilians,” she said, adding that historically military trials in Pakistan were held secretly and without transparency. 

The Supreme Court last October declared null and void the trial of civilians by military courts arrested in the wake of the May 9 protests, but overturned its own verdict in December and allowed the army to resume hearing the cases of 103 civilians.

Pakistan’s Army Act of 1952 established military courts primarily to try members of the military or enemies of the state. Civilians can only be tried under a federal government order.

Civilians accused of offenses such as waging war against the armed forces or law enforcement agencies, or attacking military installations or inciting mutiny, can be tried at military courts.

Military courts operate under a separate system from the civilian legal system and are run by military officers. The judges are also military personnel and cases are tried at military installations.

Trials are closed to outsiders, and no media presence is allowed.

Anyone tried under the Army Act has the right to defend themselves and a counsel of their choice. There is no right to appeal but individuals can challenge the question of jurisdiction in high courts and the Supreme Court.