Pakistan ‘deeply grieved’ at attack causing 100 casualties at Shiite mosque in Afghanistan

An Afghan man films inside a mosque after a blast, in Kunduz, Afghanistan October 8, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 08 October 2021

Pakistan ‘deeply grieved’ at attack causing 100 casualties at Shiite mosque in Afghanistan

  • Taliban police officials say most people attending the Friday prayer congregation were either killed or wounded in northern Kunduz province
  • No group immediately claimed responsibility of the explosion, though it was suspected that the attack was orchestrated by Daesh

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday condemned an explosion in a Shiite mosque in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that killed or wounded about a hundred worshippers attending the Friday prayer congregation.
According to Reuters, the blast was first reported by Taliban police officials in the area who said a majority of people inside the building were killed in the attack.
The Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid also confirmed the incident, saying a Shiite mosque had come under attack in Kunduz where a “large number” of people were either killed or wounded.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though it was suspected to be orchestrated by Daesh militants with a history of attacking the minority Shiite community in Afghanistan.
“We are deeply grieved at the dastardly terrorist attack on a mosque today in Kunduz province of Afghanistan which has reportedly resulted in loss of innumerable precious lives and injuries to many others,” the Pakistan foreign office said in an official statement.
“The Government and people of Pakistan stand in solidarity with their Afghan brethren,” it continued. “We convey our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their dear ones and wish early recovery to the injured.”
Reuters quoted Dost Mohammad Obaida, the deputy police chief for Kunduz, as saying the attack may have been carried out by a suicide bomber.
“I assure our Shiite brothers that the Taliban are prepared to ensure their safety,” he said, adding that an investigation was underway.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan only a few days before the international forces pulled out of the war-ravaged country in August.
The new administration in Kabul has since tried to address a deepening economic crisis and consolidate its political control across the country.
Earlier this week, the Taliban said it had carried out a “decisive and successful” operation against Daesh by targeting its hideout in the northern part of the capital, Kabul.
 


Pakistan's PM orders restoration of Wikipedia 'with immediate effect'

Updated 38 min 44 sec ago

Pakistan's PM orders restoration of Wikipedia 'with immediate effect'

  • Pakistan blocked Wikipedia last week on grounds it failed to remove "blasphemous content" from its platform
  • "Unintended consequences" of blanket ban on Wikipedia outweigh its benefits, says committee formed by PM Sharif

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday ordered the restoration of online encyclopedia Wikipedia "with immediate effect", a couple of days after it was banned for uploading "blasphemous" content on its platform. 

Pakistan last week banned Wikipedia across the country, accusing the platform of deliberately not removing blasphemous content. Pakistan's telecommunication regulator said it provided the platform multiple chances to present its stance in a hearing but it failed to do so. 

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and social media giants Facebook and YouTube have previously been banned for publishing content deemed sacrilegious.

The move drew flak from digital rights activists and proponents of free speech, who pointed out how the move would deprive millions across the country of free knowledge and research material. 

According to a statement by the Prime Minister's House (PMO), the premier constituted a three-member ministerial committee comprising the ministers of law, information and economic affairs to deliberate on the matter. 

The committee said Wikipedia is a "useful" website that supports the dissemination of knowledge and information for the general public. "Blocking the site in its entirety was not a suitable measure to restrict access to some objectionable contents / sacrilegious matter on it," the committee said. 

The committee said further that the "unintended consequences" of the blanket ban outweigh its benefits.

"Based on the above recommendation, the Prime Minister is pleased to direct that the website (Wikipedia) may be restored with immediate effect," the PMO stated.

The statement said that the prime minister had constituted a separate cabinet committee comprising the ministers of IT, law, information, commerce and communications that may "co-opt any expert members or seek opinion from expert individuals/organizations to reach its findings."

The committee would review the suitability of the PTA's action of blocking Wikipedia to restrict access to blasphemous content. It would also explore and recommend alternative measures to remove or block blasphemous material on Wikipedia and other online sites and provide any other recommendations to control unlawful online content "in a balanced manner."

In September 2020, Pakistan blocked Tinder, Grindr and three other dating apps for not adhering to local laws, with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) saying it had taken the decision to curb the “negative effects of immoral/indecent content streaming.”


'Unsustainable' to manufacture, ensure medicine supply beyond seven days — Pakistan pharma association

Updated 06 February 2023

'Unsustainable' to manufacture, ensure medicine supply beyond seven days — Pakistan pharma association

  • Pakistani pharmaceutical manufacturers say rising cost of medicinal raw materials, depreciating rupee increasing cost of production
  • Government, drug regulatory authority failed to take measures to remedy ongoing situation, say Pakistani pharmaceutical manufacturers

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's pharmaceutical industry on Monday warned it would be unable to manufacture and ensure the availability of medicines beyond seven days if the government does not take measures to being down the increasing cost of production for medicines.  

Pakistan, whose foreign exchange reserves have dwindled to a little over $3 billion, is desperately seeking external financing to avoid default. Its currency, the rupee, has declined to historic lows against the US dollar over the past couple of weeks, driving fears the country's import-dependent economy would see more inflation in the coming days.

Several factories have announced temporary closures across the country, largely owing to the increasing cost of raw materials. On Monday, the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) chairman, Qazi Mansoor Dilawar, wrote a letter to the health minister, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), and the health ministry to take remedial measures to bring down the cost of production.

He added that the depreciating rupee had increased the cost of imports, which had in turn, increased the cost of production of medicines.  

"In view of the foregoing and being compelled and constrained by the circumstances beyond the control of the pharmaceutical industry, it has become completely unsustainable to manufacture medicines and ensure their availability beyond the next 7 days," Dilawar wrote. 

He said the PPMA had repeatedly asked the government and DRAP to allow inflationary adjustments in the maximum retail prices of medicines, adding that failure to do so would result in the "inevitable collapse of the local pharmaceutical industry."

"The Federal Government and the DRAP have failed to take any measures whatsoever to protect the public en masse and remedy the ongoing situation," he wrote. 

Dilawar added that impediments in the pharma industry's growth would result in the denial of safe, potent and effective drugs to the masses.

Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel and DRAP CEO Asim Rauf did not respond to requests by Arab News for comments. 


Pakistan PM's All Parties Conference on 'terrorism' postponed to

Updated 06 February 2023

Pakistan PM's All Parties Conference on 'terrorism' postponed to

  • Information minister says politicians to form consensus on "terrorism", other challenges
  • Last week, at least 80 people were killed in a suicide attack in northwestern Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's All Parties Conference focusing on "terrorism" would be held on February 9,  Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Monday, adding that the political leadership would aim to form a consensus on militancy and other challenges.

Last week, the prime minister announced holding the APC on Tuesday, February 7 to discuss Pakistan's "national challenges." Amid political tensions, the premier invited his predecessor, Imran Khan, to attend the conference as well. However, Khan's aide Asad Umar said Khan had declined the invitation and would not be part of the APC. 

Sharif's invitation to all political parties' representatives to attend the APC came at the backdrop of rising militant attacks in Pakistan. The South Asian country also faces a host of economic problems, as its reserves decline to a nine-year low of $3 billion, barely enough to cover three weeks of imports. 

Experts warn Pakistan's depreciating rupee and energy requirements could exacerbate import inflation in the country and result in social unrest. Political tensions, meanwhile, remain high in the country as Khan—ousted via a parliamentary vote in April last year—accuses the government of colluding with Washington to remove him from power. Both Sharif and Washington have rejected the allegations. 

Last week, over 80 people were killed while over 100 were injured in a suicide attack that targeted a mosque in Pakistan's northwestern Peshawar city. A senior Taliban commander claimed responsibility for the attack, which was later denied by the group. 

"Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's All Parties Conference on the issue of terrorism will be held on Thursday, February 9 in Islamabad instead of on February 7," Aurangzeb wrote on Twitter. 

 

She said Pakistan's political leadership would aim to create a joint strategy to combat militancy, economic challenges and would also review the National Action Plan. 

Last week, over 80 people were killed while more than 100 were injured in a suicide attack that targeted a mosque in Pakistan's northwestern Peshawar city. A senior Taliban commander claimed responsibility for the attack, which was later denied by the group. 

Following the Army Public School massacre in 2014, when over 100 schoolchildren were gunned down by the Pakistani Taliban, the government came up with an action plan to counter militancy in the country and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

A 20-point action plan, known as the National Action Plan, was drafted by Pakistan's interior ministry which was approved by all relevant stakeholders in December 2014. However, critics argue that successive governments have not acted upon the action plan.


History-making Arooj Aftab becomes first Pakistani artist to perform at Grammys

Updated 06 February 2023

History-making Arooj Aftab becomes first Pakistani artist to perform at Grammys

  • Arooj Aftab performs "Udhero Na" with singer Anoushka Shankar
  • Last year, she became the first Pakistani to bag a Grammy award

ISLAMABAD: Arooj Aftab made history on Sunday when she became the first Pakistani artist to perform at the prestigious Grammy awards in Los Angeles, when the singer teamed up with British-American artist Anoushka Shankar to perform their song "Udhero Na." 

The Brooklyn-based vocalist became the first Pakistani artist to win a Grammy award when she bagged the Best Global Performance award for her song "Mohabbat" in April 2022. 

In November last year, the critically acclaimed "Udhero Na" received a Grammy nomination for the same category. Aftab earlier said she wrote the song when she was 15 years old. She recorded it with Shankar, who was nominated this year in the Best Global Music Performance and Best Global Music Album categories. 

"Soundcheck, it's todayyy, live.grammy.com," Aftab wrote along with a picture she shared on her Instagram Stories. She can be seen performing live on the Grammys stage as Shankar strums a sitar beside her. 

The 37-year-old, who has lived in New York for some 15 years, has been steadily gaining global attention for her work that fuses ancient Sufi traditions with inflections of folk, jazz and minimalism.

Born to Pakistani parents in Saudi Arabia, Aftab spent her teenage years in Lahore before relocating to Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music to study musical production and engineering.

She released her third studio album “Vulture Prince” to critical acclaim, and gained even more attention after former US president Barack Obama included the track “Mohabbat” on his 2021 summer favorites list.


Pakistan army rescue team to depart for Turkey tonight as earthquake kills over 1,490

Updated 43 min 59 sec ago

Pakistan army rescue team to depart for Turkey tonight as earthquake kills over 1,490

  • More than 2,200 people killed and thousands injured in Turkey and northwest Syria
  • President Tayyip Erdogan says 45 countries had offered to help with rescue efforts

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani Prime Minister's Office has said a military search and rescue team would depart for Turkey on Monday night where the death toll stands at 1,498 after an earthquake rocked wide swaths of Turkey and Syria early in the morning.

In Turkey, the death toll stood at 1,498, the national disaster agency said, already the highest death toll from an earthquake in Turkey since 1999, when a tremor of similar magnitude devastated the heavily populated eastern Marmara Sea region near Istanbul, killing more than 17,000.

At least 716 people were killed in Syria, according to figures from the Damascus government and the United Nations. The Norwegian Refugee Council said the earthquake would only add to the suffering of millions of Syrians already enduring a humanitarian crisis due to an 11-year-long civil war.

The Pakistani PM’s Office said the National Disaster Management Authority had coordinated an action plan under which a military plane would depart at 10pm on Monday night, “carrying Army's Search and Rescue Team, directly to Turkiye earthquake area.”

“In early morning tomorrow 7 Feb, a PIA flight space for 50 individuals and 15 ton load is available to carry Rescue 1122 team to Turkiye,” the statement said.

Another military plane will also fly out to Istanbul on Tuesday carrying seven tonnes of cargo, including winterised tents, blankets and other articles.

“From 8 Feb onwards we will have 15 ton cargo space on daily PIA flights (alternatively from Islamabad and Lahore) to Turkiye and Syria. We will push follow up cargo loads and medical teams (from Army and Ministry of Health) to both countries," the statement said.

Hundreds are still believed to be trapped under rubble across the two nations, and the toll is expected to rise as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.

Pakistani Prime Shehbaz Sharif held a telephone call with President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday afternoon and “conveyed heartfelt condolences over loss of precious lives and property.”

The Pakistan Embassy in Ankara said “assistance teams” from Pakistan would reach Turkey “very soon.”

 

 

 

Erdogan has said 45 countries had offered to assist with search and rescue efforts.