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

Noor Mukadam's mother is holding a placard during a protest demonstration in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 20, 2021. Mukadam, daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat, was brutally murdered in the country's federal capital on July 20. (Photo courtesy: Justice for Noor)
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Updated 21 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.



UN refugee agency calls on Pakistan, other countries to accept Afghan asylum-seekers

Updated 01 December 2021

UN refugee agency calls on Pakistan, other countries to accept Afghan asylum-seekers

  • The world body says Afghanistan's neighboring countries should open their borders even to those without documentation
  • The UN refugee agency calls for a halt to deportations, saying Afghan nationals may face persecution in their homeland

GENEVA: Afghans seeking to flee abroad face escalating risks as the domestic situation deteriorates, the United Nations refugee agency said on Wednesday in a plea to neighboring countries to open their borders even to those without documentation.

Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan have deported increasing numbers of Afghans since August, following the Taliban takeover, it said.

The UNHCR called for a halt to deportations saying Afghans may face persecution in their homeland where religious and ethnic minorities and activists have been targeted.

"UNHCR urges all countries receiving Afghan new arrivals to keep their borders open to those in need of international protection," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement.

Pakistan urges OIC to help address Afghanistan's urgent humanitarian needs

Updated 01 December 2021

Pakistan urges OIC to help address Afghanistan's urgent humanitarian needs

  • The Organization of Islamic Cooperation will be holding an extraordinary session on Afghanistan later this month
  • Pakistan's foreign secretary says 60 percent of Afghan nationals can face 'crisis level of hunger' that may lead to mass refugee exodus

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood said on Wednesday the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should play a role in helping the people of Afghanistan who were facing a serious humanitarian crisis.

Afghanistan witnessed a major political change in August when the Taliban seized control of its capital city, Kabul, while the international community was still in the process of pulling out its troops.

The political change exposed the economic vulnerabilities of the country, however, which required substantial foreign assistance after being in a state of war for several decades.

The top official of Pakistan's foreign office briefed the Islamabad-based heads of OIC missions on the prevailing situation in Afghanistan ahead of the group's proposed extraordinary session on the subject later this month.

"The Foreign Secretary emphasized that as the collective voice of the Islamic Ummah, the OIC, can and must play its part in helping address the urgent humanitarian and economic needs of our Afghan brethren," said an official statement released by the foreign office in Islamabad. "In addition, he underlined, OIC’s leadership could help galvanize other international actors to come forward and extend a helping hand to the Afghan people currently in dire need of international support and solidarity."

The Pakistani official informed that the OIC extraordinary session was organized after Saudi Arabia took the initiative last month, adding that the administration in Islamabad welcomed the decision and offered to host the foreign ministers of OIC nations on December 17.

Quoting the United Nations estimates, he said that 60 percent of Afghanistan's 38 million people faced "crisis level of hunger," adding there was a risk of acute malnutrition among Afghan women and children along with the problem of internal displacement.

The foreign secretary maintained a potential economic collapse in Afghanistan could not be ruled out.

"This would not only be a humanitarian tragedy but also exacerbate the security situation, spur instability, and lead to a mass exodus of refugees," he said, adding: "This would have grave consequences for international peace and stability."

Pakistan has also urged the international community in the past not to adopt a policy of disengagement toward Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover since it would have negative consequences for the people in the war-battered country along with the rest of the region.

President Alvi signs bill to safeguard rights of journalists in Pakistan

Updated 01 December 2021

President Alvi signs bill to safeguard rights of journalists in Pakistan

  • The Pakistani president says the new law increases the responsibility of the government and media owners
  • The Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021, will deal with issues like harassment, torture and arbitrary arrests

ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Wednesday endorsed the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021, which was passed by parliament last month to safeguard the rights of the media community in the country.

The bill requires the government to take all possible measures to protect journalists and media professionals from all forms of harassment, abuse, violence and exploitation at the hands of any individual, institution or authority.

It also authorizes the government to establish a commission to look into complaints against threats, acts of torture, killings, violent attacks, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests.

“I am feeling happy to sign this Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021, which was drafted through consensus of all stakeholders after a lot of hard work,” the president said during the signing ceremony at the Presidency in Islamabad.

He maintained there was uniformity of opinion regarding the rights of journalists, adding that the new law had increased the responsibility of the government and media owners in the country.

Alvi said the bill had eight points that covered different aspects of the media industry to ensure the protection of journalists.

“It’s third act of part two provides the right to life and protection. It is essential for journalists because they work with neutrality despite facing acute dangers,” he said while noting that Article 4 was about the right to privacy and source nondisclosure “which remained a big issue in the past.”

“There is protection against abusive, violent and intolerant behavior,” he continued. “There is also a clause about an independent media commission which is very essential.”

The president said while the society had the responsibility to demonstrate tolerance toward journalists trying to perform their duties, the media community should also report developments objectively and within the right context.

The country’s information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain described the legislation as a leap forward while hoping it would provide all the rights to Pakistani journalists which were available to media communities in developed states.

“The media enjoys freedom in Pakistan,” he said. “The government stands by working journalists and will act to provide them employment protection.”

Pakistan’s human rights minister Shireen Mazari said the new law defined the term “media professional” and would let the authorities deliberate on journalist welfare schemes.

“It is now a legal obligation of media owners to provide insurance and training to media professionals,” she said.

Mazari informed that women would also be given representation in the commission to be formed under the Act.

“An independent commission will be formed for the first time in the country which will address the complaints of journalists,” she added.

A representative of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Pervaiz Shaukat welcomed the new law, though he emphasized its implementation.

“We talked to the information minister that the government should ensure its implementation,” he told Arab News. “Otherwise, this will become useless like many other laws.”

China says Gwadar protests deliberately played up by media outlets

Updated 01 December 2021

China says Gwadar protests deliberately played up by media outlets

  • A senior foreign ministry official in Beijing denies the presence of any Chinese trawlers near the Pakistani deep-sea port
  • Gwadar is located in Pakistan's sparsely populated Balochistan province where people are mostly associated with the fishing business

ISLAMABAD: A Chinese foreign ministry official said on Tuesday some media outlets had launched a smear campaign against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by playing up protests in Gwadar, reported Pakistan's APP state-owned news agency.
Gwadar is at the heart of the multibillion-dollar economic corridor project that aims to provide China a shorter, more secure trade route, via Pakistan, to the Middle East and beyond, while also boosting Pakistan’s economy.
Despite its strategic significance, the residents of the area have been demanding basic rights and action against illegal trawling in the Arabian Sea which they say has rendered local fisherfolk and others jobless.
The issue has also been reported by the international media.
"China firmly rejects certain media's attempts to smear the CPEC building and China-Pakistan relations," the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, Zhao Lijian, was quoted as saying by the APP agency. "This is completely fake news. Certain media's hyping up of the protests against China in Gwadar region lacks factual basis."
The APP report said Lijian denied the presence of any Chinese trawlers near Gwadar, adding that CPEC was not only focusing on development work but also trying to contribute to the livelihood of people.
Gwadar is located in Pakistan's sparsely populated southwestern Balochistan province where a large number of people are associated with the fishing business.

'Longest' supply cut to CNG stations in Pakistan may jeopardize over 20,000 jobs, warn stakeholders

Updated 01 December 2021

'Longest' supply cut to CNG stations in Pakistan may jeopardize over 20,000 jobs, warn stakeholders

  • The Sui Southern Gas Company has started suspending gas supply to all CNG stations in Sindh and Balochistan until February 15
  • Owners of CNG pumps say frequent supply cuts to manage the demand of gas in the country will gradually wipe out the sector

KARACHI: The suspension of gas to fuel stations across the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan not only risks the employment of over 20,000 people associated with the business but is also likely to exert further pressure on the country’s import bill, said traders and stakeholders on Tuesday.
The state-owned Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) announced the decision to suspend gas supply to the compressed natural gas (CNG) sector for two and half months from December 1 to meet the demand of domestic consumers during winter.
According to a notification released by the company earlier this week, the gas supply will remain suspended to “all CNG stations across Sindh and Balochistan from December 1, 2021, until February 15, 2022.”
However, the business community warned such decisions could wipe out CNG stations in in the country.
“We fear that about 20,000 people who are directly or indirectly associated with the CNG business will be affected along with their families,” Samir Najmul Hussain, convener of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s standing committee on CNG, told Arab News. “It will also deprive the government of much needed revenue, exert pressure on the import bill, and add to the environmental woes.”
Owners of CNG stations also voiced concern over the decision.
“This practically amounts to driving CNG station owners out of business since this is the longest gas supply cut,” Shabir Sulemanji, chairman of the CNG Forum, said while talking to Arab News.
He informed that about 520 CNG stations out of 630 were operational in the two provinces and employed an average of 15 to 20 workers each.
Pakistan faces a chronic shortage of gas during winter, as demand for heating increases. The situation is mostly managed by the authorities by resorting to such load management mechanisms.
The country is expected to face a shortage of about 2,281 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) between December 2021 and February 2022 due to a decline in local gas production, according to various estimates.
Given the frequent supply cuts to manage the gas demand in the country, CNG traders believe the sector is gradually being phased out.
“The number of CNG station across Pakistan has declined by about 3,300 to around 16,000,” Sulemanji said.
The country introduced CNG in the 1990s as a form of green fuel for ordinary people, though traders believe the concept is now coming to an end. “The concept of this being a cleaner fuel is gradually over,” Sulemanji said.
Pakistan stopped issuing CNG licenses in 2008, though it lifted the official ban last year and allowed people to set up new stations where they could only sell re-gasified natural gas (RLNG).