‘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.

 

 


Pakistan endorses Saudi initiative to request ‘extraordinary’ OIC session on Afghanistan

Updated 29 November 2021

Pakistan endorses Saudi initiative to request ‘extraordinary’ OIC session on Afghanistan

  • Pakistan offers to host ministerial meeting on Afghanistan on December 17 in Islamabad
  • UN agencies have been raising concerns that nearly 23 million Afghans face acute food shortages 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday said it endorsed an initiative by Saudi Arabia to request an ‘extraordinary session’ of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) next month to assess the situation in Afghanistan.
Saudi Arabia, as chair of the Islamic Summit, has called upon the OIC to urgently convene an extraordinary ministerial-level meeting to discuss a growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan on December 17, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday. 
Afghanistan has been plunged into crisis by the abrupt end of billions of dollars in foreign assistance, following the collapse of the Western-backed government and return to power of the Taliban in August.
“Pakistan fully endorses this [Saudi] initiative, we have also offered to host a meeting in Islamabad on 17 December 2021,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in video message, adding that he hoped OIC member states would “endorse this offer.”


Qureshi said Afghanistan was a founding member of the OIC and “today our Afghan brothers and sisters need us more than ever before.” 
He added that Afghanistan was facing a “serious humanitarian situation,” with millions of Afghans including women and children faced with an uncertain future due to shortages of food, medicine, and other essential life supplies: “The advent of winter has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis.” 
“OIC must step-in to help our Afghan brethren. We should step-up our collective efforts to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people, provide immediate and sustained support to them, and continue to remain engaged with them for the well-being and prosperity of Afghanistan,” Qureshi said. 
UN agencies have also raised concerns that nearly 23 million Afghans are facing acute food shortages
Billions of dollars in international aid have dried up as the international community works out how to interact with the Taliban movement, while billions more in foreign currency reserves are locked up in vaults in the West.
The Taliban have called on members of the United States Congress to act to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets. Washington has seized nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank since the Taliban took power in mid-August this year.
Last week, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan approved a humanitarian assistance package for Afghanistan and ordered the immediate shipment of humanitarian assistance worth Rs. 5 billion.


Government in talks with ‘everyone,’ including separatists, chief minister of Pakistan’s Balochistan says

Updated 29 November 2021

Government in talks with ‘everyone,’ including separatists, chief minister of Pakistan’s Balochistan says

  • Mir Abdul Quddus Bezinjo says government “taking everyone on board” including Balochistan Liberation Front of Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch
  • Says missing persons cell set up by Home Department approached by 180 families, links rise in attacks in Balochistan to change in Afghan government

QUETTA: The chief minister of Balochistan, Mir Abdul Quddus Bezinjo, has said his government was speaking to all dissidents who were “unhappy” with the state, including reaching out to Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, the head of the separatist Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), as a step toward ending a long-running insurgency seeking greater autonomy or independence for the huge, resource-rich province. 
The low-intensity insurgency in southwestern Balochistan, a sparsely populated, mountainous, desert province bordering Afghanistan and Iran, has gone on intermittently for decades, with the government launching full-scale military operations as well as targeted interventions to quell it. Locals and rights activists say hundreds of people have been forcibly disappeared by security forces hunting for dissidents. The military vehemently denies committing abuses. Separatist fighters have also been accused of killing civilians and security forces and assassinating teachers.
Critics of the central government complain the province, which makes up 43 percent of Pakistan’s land mass, has received paltry royalties on its vast mineral, oil and gas resources, while remaining one of the country’s poorest regions. Baloch nationalists, many Pakistani politicians and rights activists say the chronic instability in the province is a stubborn reminder of the broader fragility of the Pakistani state and have repeatedly called on the government to urgently deal with years of pent-up grievances.
Now, Balochistan’s new chief minister, who was elected unopposed last month, says his government is ready for the challenge, and is “taking everyone on board” to seek an end to the decades of violence. 
“Absolutely, as soon as coming into power, we have focused on this,” Bezinjo told Arab News in an interview in Quetta when asked if his government was talking to separatists and other dissident groups. “Surely they have grievances because of which they have become unhappy, [so] the doors of dialogue should not be closed. We are talking to them, and lots of channels are also open.”

Among those the government was reaching out to is BLF chief Dr. Baloch, Bizenjo confirmed: “Not direct, but indirectly we are trying that we do this [talk to Dr. Baloch] and all the rest, whoever they are, we are trying that we talk to them.”
Dr. Baloch is the only leader of a sizeable separatist group who is believed to be waging a campaign for independence from inside Balochistan; the other two leaders are in exile in Europe, including Brahamdagh Bugti, the Switzerland-based leader of the Balochistan Republican Party, and Hyrbyair Marri, who lives in London and heads the Baloch Liberation Army. The three groups have for years launched attacks on civilians, journalists and government and security personnel.
Bezinjo said it would be premature to disclose “specifics” of the talks, but added: “Many personalities with whom we are in talks, we are hopeful that in a few months they will be in this country, and in this province … Very soon Balochistan’s people will get good news.”

The chief minister of Balochistan, Mir Abdul Quddus Bezinjo, speaks to Arab News in Quetta, Pakistan, on November 27, 2021. (AN Photo)

Governments in the past have attempted, and failed, to win over dissidents and the prospects of success for Bezinjo’s campaign are bleak. But the need for peace is more urgent than ever before, especially in the last decade as China has turned its attention toward Balochistan’s wealth of copper, gold, gas and coal deposits and invested billions of dollars in the province.
Separatist militants have frequently targeted Chinese projects, including its construction in Gwadar, a port on the Balochistan coast, near the entrance to the strategically-important Gulf. And in 2018, the Balochistan Liberation Army attacked the Chinese consulate in the southern port city of Karachi, killing four Pakistani police and civilians.
It was the most high profile attack by the group until June 29 2020, when its fighters launched an assault on the stock exchange, killing four people.
That attack came a day after hundreds of relatives of missing Balochs gathered in Quetta to mark the four thousandth day of their protest against what they say are enforced disappearances by the state. The daily sit-in launched in 2009 entered its 4,509 day today, Monday. 
The Pakistan military denies it is involved in enforced disappearances. In 2019, it issued a statement sympathizing with the families of missing Balochs and said that some may have joined militant groups: “Not every person missing is attributable to the state.”
But the issue of missing persons has continued to spark revolt in Balochistan and arrests and disappearances of alleged separatist sympathizers as well as political and student nationalist leaders have hardened attitudes, particularly among the young.
A federal commission on enforced disappearances set up in March 2011 listed 8,122 cases of missing persons reported nationwide by June 2021, of which 5,880 have been resolved. At least 500 people on the list are from Balochistan. 
“We made a cell [in the Balochistan Home Department], it’s been one year and in that around 180 families have approached us,” the chief minister said. “We are investigating whether they are missing or not, but the numbers are not as large as they say.”
Speaking about the outsized role of the Pakistani military in the running of Balochistan, Bezinjo said there was no harm in governments in the province seeking help from the army, particularly against security threats.
“They are our forces, we feel no shame if they come to us [the government], and support us somewhere, in relation to law and order, and other issues,” the chief minister said. “Wherever we felt that we needed the forces, we needed to improve law and order, we certainly requested them, where we felt that we can’t work, the situation was untenable, there we took the army’s support … Sometimes they feel that some steps are needed for the betterment of Balochistan.”

The chief minister of Balochistan, Mir Abdul Quddus Bezinjo, speaks to Arab News in Quetta, Pakistan, on November 27, 2021. (AN Photo)

Bezinjo also spoke about a rise in attacks on security forces in Balochistan in the last three months, and linked it to a change of government in neighboring Afghanistan, where the Afghan Taliban seized Kabul in mid-August. 
The militant Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is separate from the Afghan Taliban, has stepped up its campaign against the Pakistani army and paramilitary forces in recent months.
“Whenever things change in Afghanistan, its effect is always seen in Balochistan,” Bezinjo said. “Because of change there [in Afghanistan] a lot of elements have come here [to Pakistan] and taken part in different kinds of terrorism. Things are in front of us, we can see for a few months that the law and order situation has deteriorated quickly.”
But Bezinjo was hopeful that new development schemes in the province would improve overall tensions, especially the announcement by the federal government of a “Southern Balochistan Project,” under which 199 projects worth Rs601 billion are to be executed. 
Currently, Balochistan has the worst development indicators in the country, with over 50 percent people living below the poverty line and 92 percent of provincial districts classified as “highly deprived” by the United Nations. 
“If these [Southern Balochistan] projects become functional on the ground in a timely fashion, then we are hopeful that Inshallah things will improve a lot and we will have a lot of support in the development sector,” Bezinjo said. 
And while he lamented that past central governments had not paid due attention to Balochistan, he said the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan was taking special interest in the province’s development. 
“If the federal [government] does not give us proper space, proper development funds, then we can never develop Balochistan,” the chief minister said. “If they want to strengthen this pillar then they will have to enlarge their heart.”


Pakistani rupee hits new all-time low against greenback

Updated 29 November 2021

Pakistani rupee hits new all-time low against greenback

  • US dollar closed at Rs176.20 on Monday despite clearance of Saudi deposits
  • Pakistani currency has lost 15.7 percent of its value since May this year

KARACHI: Pakistan’s national currency continued to lose its value against the US dollar and hit a new all-time low as the greenback closed at Rs176.20 on Monday. 
The rupee has lost its value by 15.7 percent, or more than Rs24, since May this year, when the dollar was trading at around Rs152. 
While analysts believe the rupee is weakening against the greenback due to a high demand for imports and an expectation of higher import bills for November 2021, currency dealers say the reasons for rupee’s depreciation were not clear, despite a decline in oil prices and the clearance of a Saudi financial package.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Monday formally signed an agreement under which the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) will deposit $3 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). 
In October, SFD announced a financial package of $4.2 billion to help the South Asian nation as it struggled with depleting foreign reserves. The package includes suppling $1.2 billion worth of oil to Pakistan on credit. 
“The demand of dollar for imports is exerting pressure on Pakistani rupee besides it is expected that November import bill will be higher as well,” said Samiullah Tariq, research director at the Pakistan Kuwait Investment Company (PKIC). 
Tariq said the flow of Saudi dollars into Pakistan would improve market sentiment despite an expected high demand for dollar for imports. 
“The Saudi deposits will improve the sentiment of the market,” he said. “The deposit will increase the import coverage of the country for three months.” 
But Zafar Paracha, general secretary of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP), said analysts were unable to comprehend why the dollar was appreciating in the interbank market, despite the clearance of the Saudi deposit facility and around 10 percent decline in oil prices. 
On Monday, the rupee appreciated in the open market and the US dollar traded at Rs177.80 for selling and Rs177.30 for buying. The greenback traded at Rs179 for selling and Rs178 for buying the previous day.  
“There is more supply of dollar than the demand in the open market,” Paracha said, explaining the rupee’s appreciation. 
Pakistan’s equity market jubilated over the clearance of the Saudi deposit facility, with the benchmark KSE 100 index gaining 1215.89 points on Monday. 
“Stocks closed record higher after reports that federal cabinet approved terms of $4.2 billion Saudi package,” Ahsan Mehanti, chief executive of Arif Habib Corporation said. “Strong economic outlook ahead of release of IMF tranche and surging exports, remittances and global crude oil prices played a catalyst role in the bullish close.” 


Pakistan mob sets fire to police station over alleged Holy Quran desecration 

Updated 29 November 2021

Pakistan mob sets fire to police station over alleged Holy Quran desecration 

  • Crowd of up to 5,000 people surrounded police station in Charsadda town on Sunday night
  • On Monday morning, 2,000 people remained outside police station burning uniforms of officers

PESHAWAR: Thousands of people mobbed a Pakistani police station, setting fire to it and nearby checkposts after demanding that officers hand over a man accused of burning the Holy Quran, police said Monday.
The crowd of up to 5,000 people surrounded the police station in Charsadda town in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday night, also setting fire to more than 30 cars.
On Monday morning, around 2,000 people remained outside the police station burning uniforms of officers.
"The mob stormed the police station asking to hand over the man to them so they could burn him alive like he burnt the Holy Quran," district police chief, Asif Bahadur told AFP.

Demonstrators gather at a police station which was set on fire after thousands of people mobbed it demanding that officers hand over a man accused of burning the Holy Quran, in Charsadda, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on November 29, 2021. (AFP)

The identity and religion of the accused has not been disclosed by police, Bahadur said.
"The motive behind burning the copy of the Holy Quran is still unknown but we are investigating."
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations can stir mobs and violence.
Rights groups say the legislation is often hijacked for personal vendettas, with minorities largely the target.
A Christian couple was lynched then burnt in a kiln in Punjab in 2014 after being falsely accused of desecrating the Holy Quran. A former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was gunned down by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, in Islamabad in 2011 over his call for reforms of the blasphemy law.
Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman and a labourer from central Punjab province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and was on death row until her acquittal in 2018, which prompted days of violent demonstrations by hardliners. She and her family later fled the country for Canada.
The country has frequently been paralysed in recent years by anti-blasphemy protests waged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party, often linked to the publishing of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) by a French satirical magazine. 


Islamabad, Saudi Arabia sign agreement on $3 billion deposit in Pakistani central bank

Updated 29 November 2021

Islamabad, Saudi Arabia sign agreement on $3 billion deposit in Pakistani central bank

  • State Bank of Pakistan says funds will help support country’s foreign currency reserves
  • In October, Saudi Fund for Development announced financial package of $4.2 billion for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, represented by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), on Monday formally signed an agreement under which SFD will deposit $3 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). 
In October, SFD announced a financial package of $4.2 billion to help the South Asian nation as it struggled with depleting foreign reserves. The amount includes suppling $1.2 billion worth of oil to Pakistan on credit. 
A deposit agreement was signed in Karachi by SFD Chief Executive Officer Sultan Bin AbdulRahman Al-Marshad and SBP Governor Dr. Reza Baqir, the SBP said in a statement on Monday.


“The deposit amount under the agreement shall become part of SBP’s Foreign Exchange Reserves. It will help support Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves and contribute toward resolving the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said. 
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy deep-rooted strategic ties. Around 2.5 million Pakistani expats are living in the kingdom, and are the biggest single source of foreign remittances to the South Asian nation. 
Saudi Arabia also supported Pakistan in 2019 with $3 billion deposits and a $1.2 billion deferred oil payments facility. 
“The deposit agreement reflects the strong and special relationship and will augment economic ties between the two brotherly countries,” the SBP said.