Biden picks career diplomat, Middle East expert as envoy in Pakistan
Donald Blome is currently US ambassador to Tunisia
Pakistan is playing a major role in diplomacy with its Taliban-ruled neighbor
Updated 20 October 2021
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.
The ambassadorial position requires Senate confirmation.
Pakistani students work magic to transform campus into Harry Potter’s Hogwarts
Government College University in Lahore has long reminded students of the magical school
Festival is also screening what is believed to be Pakistan’s first fan-made Harry Potter film
Updated 9 sec ago
LAHORE: It took more than a wave of a wand, but Pakistani university students transformed their 150-year-old campus into Hogwarts this week as they kicked off a festival celebrating the fictional young wizard Harry Potter.
With its vast halls and soaring archways, Government College University in the eastern megacity of Lahore has long reminded students of the magical school created by British author J.K. Rowling, several students told AFP.
“I can’t believe I’m in Hogwarts, while being in Lahore of all places,” said an excited Raziah Alam, taking part in the festival.
“This has been such a fun experience.”
Dressed in costumes from the “Potterverse” including wands and pointed witch and wizard hats, students welcomed visitors to their version of the Hogwarts “Great Hall,” decorated with broomsticks, bats, and even an area to brew potions.
The theme music from the Harry Potter films played in the background as students tried out spells, took photos wearing the famous “Sorting Hat,” and dressed up in Hogwarts uniforms.
“Most of these youngsters grew up at the time when JK Rowling’s work was being presented in the novels and then later on in the films,” Dr. Asghar Zaidi, the university’s vice chancellor and a “Potterhead” himself told AFP.
He added that when students come to the campus “they see the architecture, it reminds them of Hogwarts.”
“I think the magic is coming through the inspiration it is bringing about to our other students,” he added proudly.
The festival is also screening what is believed to be Pakistan’s first fan-made Harry Potter film.
Titled “The Last Follower and the Resurrection of Voldemort,” the film was made and acted by students and comes with special effects, spells and a gripping storyline.
“We really thought it would be a crazy idea to change the building, put some mountains around it, create some characters that can go with it,” the film’s director and cinematographer Waleed Akram told AFP.
He said he was pleased with the film’s reception among students.
Since the release of the first Harry Potter novel in 1997, the books have found immense popularity, including in Pakistan.
They have sold over 500 million copies worldwide, in addition to the famous film franchise.
Pakistani president ratifies bill allowing use of electronic voting machines
Last month, a joint parliamentary sitting sanctioned use of EVMs for next general elections in the country
Government has been pushing for use of technology but opposition accuses it of trying to manipulate system
Updated 3 min 48 sec ago
ARAB NEWS PAKISTAN
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani President Arif Alvi on Thursday signed the Election (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that allows the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the country, Pakistani state-run APP news agency reported.
Last month, a joint parliamentary sitting sanctioned the use of EVMs for the next general elections, though opposition factions resisted the move and vowed to challenge it in the country’s top court.
The government has lately pushed for the use of technology to make future Pakistani elections fairer and more transparent, but opposition parties accuse it of trying to manipulate the voting system by introducing technology, which has not been tested in Pakistan before.
Alvi, however, asked critics not to be afraid of a “simple” electronic voting machine (EVM), which he said would help hold a fair election and bring an end to poll rigging.
“People will have to trust it. It involves no advancement. It is too simple. The country achieves progress by adopting new things,” the president said, addressing a ceremony wherein he signed the bill into law.
The bill also provides for the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis.
EVMs will ensure holding a fair election that has long been desired in Pakistan as every election followed controversies and rigging allegations, which also impacted credibility of respective governments, according to Alvi.
These machines would help print votes on the spot, instead of printing ballot papers at the press. They would help do away with the practice of printing extra ballot papers that used to be sold out later, kidnapping of presiding officers, and confusion in vote count.
He said the voter would cast their vote by touching the EVM screen, instead of stamping the ballot paper. “The process is the same. Then what is the resistance for?”
While the machine would use an in-built calculator to count votes, manual counting would also be available for skeptics, the president said, adding that the Ministry of Science and Technology was not a manufacturer of EVMs, it rather made a prototype for experiment.
It would be the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to select the EVM based on the required specifications, he explained.
About Internet-voting (I-voting) for overseas Pakistanis, Alvi recounted the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) legal and political struggle for voting right to Pakistani expatriates. He said physical voting for expatriates was not possible due to multiple complications.
The countries, which had rejected EVMs, had their own better systems in place, according to the president. Contrarily, Pakistan needed it owing to weaknesses in its system.
EVMs would help alleviate confusion caused by post-election rigging allegations and bring about a strong government to support democracy, he said.
“Don’t worry, the nation will be convinced,” the president remarked. “Just like this one, the country will make progress in other fields too.”
Pakistan felicitates UAE on Golden Jubilee, credits Emirates’ progress to visionary leadership
With bilateral trade of over $8 billion, UAE remains Pakistan’s largest trading partner in Middle East and North Africa
The Emirates are also among the largest foreign investors in Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says
Updated 11 min 45 sec ago
ISLAMABAD: On the occasion of the 50th National Day of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi extended heartiest felicitations from the people and the Government of Pakistan and said that the Emirates’ tremendous progress was a result of its visionary leadership.
UAE Ambassador to Pakistan Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi on Thursday evening hosted a grand reception in Islamabad, which marked five decades of the UAE’s formal nationalization and the start of the unification of the Emirates.
The UAE was formally established on December 2, 1971 after an agreement was reached between rulers of the six Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Ajman. The seventh, Ras al Khaimah, acceded to the new federation the following year. Since their unification, the seven Emirates have forged a distinct national identity.
“The tremendous progress achieved by the UAE would not have been possible without the visionary leadership of the its founding father, His Highness Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan,” Qureshi said, while addressing the ceremony.
“I extend heartiest felicitations from the people and the Government of Pakistan to the people of UAE and its leadership on the Golden Jubilee of their unification. We wish them phenomenal success in all their endeavors.”
Qureshi said Pakistan and the UAE had excellent fraternal relations, underpinned by a shared heritage and multifaceted cooperation. Economic and trade ties between Pakistan and UAE were an important part of this bilateral relationship and had been growing steadily, he added.
“With bilateral trade of over $8 billion, UAE remains Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa Region, while the UAE is also among the largest foreign investors in Pakistan,” he said.
“We have also been working closely at international fora. We congratulate the UAE on its election to the United Nations Security Council for the term 2022-23 and for hosting COP-28.”
Speaking to Arab News, UAE Ambassador Al-Zaabi said it was a double celebration as along with 50 years of the UAE’s success story, it also marked five decades of diplomatic relations with Pakistan.
“Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the late founding father of the UAE, put the foundation of this strong relationship with Pakistan,” Al-Zaabi said, adding that his diplomatic mission was here to continue and build new bridges to take forward this relationship.
Adviser to Pakistani prime minister on commerce Abdul Razak Dawood termed the formation of the UAE a remarkable experiment of visionary leadership of its founding father.
“The creation and progress of the Emirates required exemplary and visionary leadership, and Shiekh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid provided that leadership to unite all the seven Emirates,” Dawood told Arab News.
Pakistan’s Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan congratulated the UAE on its special day, saying, “It’s a great day for Pakistan too as we are celebrating 50 years of the establishment of the UAE, which is a true friend of Pakistan.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aide on the Middle East, Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, said Pakistan and the UAE were companions of good and bad times.
“Pakistan and the UAE are just like one body and soul. Whenever Pakistan faced any difficulty, the UAE and other Gulf states stood with us and we also reciprocated it,” Ashrafi told Arab News, adding that the Gulf countries had played a key role in each other’s progress, prosperity and stability.
“During these 50 years Pakistan remained at the forefront of building infrastructure and institutions like the Emirates airlines,” he added.
ISLAMABAD: Indian officials said on Thursday they were trying to work out the modalities of sending humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan with the Pakistani government, saying that Islamabad should not attach conditions to the shipment of relief goods.
The administration in New Delhi recently offered to supply life-saving drugs and 50,000 tons of wheat to the war-battered country which is facing an economic meltdown and an impending food crisis.
The issue was also taken up by a Taliban ministerial delegation with the Pakistani authorities last month, making Prime Minister Imran Khan assure its members that his country would consider the transit of Indian wheat on humanitarian grounds.
The foreign office of Pakistan announced on November 24 it had allowed the transportation of Indian humanitarian aid "as a goodwill gesture towards the brotherly Afghan people."
However, Indian external affairs ministry complained Pakistan wanted to load the relief material on its own trucks from the border crossing.
"We have had discussions with Pakistan on the modalities of this supply," the spokesperson of the ministry Arindam Bagchi told Hindustan Times. "These discussions are ongoing. Let me reiterate our belief that humanitarian assistance should not be subject to conditionalities."
The newspaper reported that the Indian wanted to use its own trucks to ensure the relief materials directly reached the Afghan people without being diverted.
"The Indian side also envisages the aid will be distributed only through the UN," it added.
Pakistan, which has urged the international community to address Afghanistan's humanitarian needs, allowed the transportation of Indian wheat at a time when the two countries have almost ended their diplomatic engagements due to the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Pakistan has also denied India commercial transport links to Afghanistan for a long time to block its access to the Central Asian region.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan summoned a senior Indian diplomat on Thursday to criticize the administration in New Delhi for putting a "mischievous spin" on a recent incident that took place at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib where a female blogger took some pictures without covering her head.
Reacting to the development, the Indian external affairs ministry called it a "reprehensible incident" which had hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community.
The ministry called Pakistan's Charge d'Affaires while issuing a statement which claimed the "desecration" of a Sikh place of worship showed little concern in Pakistan for minority religious communities.
"Given its systematic marginalization and brutalization of minorities, India has no locus standi to even feign concern for minorities elsewhere," said the foreign office of Pakistan in its official statement while rejecting the "mischievous spin given by India to an isolated incident involving an individual" visiting the Sikh temple.
"It was conveyed to the Indian diplomat that the incident was swiftly addressed and clarified," added the statement. "The Government of Pakistan accords highest primacy to the rights of the minorities. Sanctity of religious places and revered sites of every community is ensured in Pakistan."
The Pakistani foreign office maintained the Indian authorities should focus on ensuring effective protection of their own minorities and places of worship from repeated instances of desecration, hate crimes and mob lynching.
India and Pakistan, the two South Asian nuclear giants, have remained bitter rivals and fought three wars since their independence in 1947.