Bomb hits security vehicle in northwest Pakistan, killing four

Pakistani soldiers gather near a vehicle at a border terminal in Ghulam Khan, a town in North Waziristan, on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, on January 27, 2019. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 20 October 2021

Bomb hits security vehicle in northwest Pakistan, killing four

  • The attack happened in Bajaur, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan
  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack, though suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban based in Afghanistan

PESHAWAR: A roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying security forces in a former stronghold of local militants in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing four, police said.
The attack happened in Bajaur, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The area served as a base for the Pakistani Taliban until a few years ago, when the army said it cleared the region of insurgents. But the violence has continued there.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack.
Senior police officer Abdul Samad Khan said two police officers and two soldiers were killed in the attack. He said troops launched a search operation in the region to find those who orchestrated the attack.
Khan refused to speculate on who could be behind the attack.
But suspicion fell on Pakistan’s own Taliban who have been emboldened by the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where thousands of Pakistani militants are still believed to be hiding.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,400-kilometer (1,500-mile) internationally recognized border known as the Durand Line, which was drawn in the 19th century when the British dominated South Asia. Kabul has never recognized the boundary.
Before the the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan often accused each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along the porous frontier.


Players, support staff test positive for COVID ahead of PSL matches

Updated 6 sec ago

Players, support staff test positive for COVID ahead of PSL matches

  • Seventh edition of PSL is scheduled to start in Karachi on Jan. 27 and run through Feb. 27
  • Last year, the tournament was postponed after players and members of the support staff contracted the virus

ISLAMABAD: Three cricketers and five support staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, the cricket board confirmed on Friday, ahead of of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
The seventh edition of PSL is scheduled to start in Karachi on Jan. 27 and run through Feb. 27.
In early March last year, the tournament was postponed after players and members of the support staff contracted COVID-19. The league resumed in June. 
PCB chief operating officer Salman Naseer, who is also the PSL director, said the positive eight cased were detected after coronavirus screening on Thursday.
“As per latest results received, in over 250 tests conducted since Thursday, three players and five support staff have tested positive and have been isolated,” Naseer said in a press release.
“Players and support staff having completed isolation and received two negative tests will start training from 24 January.”
He added that the PCB has “robust health and safety plans” to make sure the league is held in the announced timeframe and has been regularly testing tournament staff and franchise players arriving in Karachi since Jan. 14. 
“PCB remains committed to creating a safe and secure environment for all participants so that they can play and perform to the best of their abilities,” he said. 
The PSL is Pakistan’s own professional T20 cricket league, comprising six teams that each represent their city. Over the past six years, the PSL has become wildly popular with fans in Pakistan and abroad for the exhilarating action and rivalry that accompanies the tournament. 
In the first match of its seventh edition, defending champions Multan Sultans will face the home team Karachi Kings.
Quetta Gladiators will stand toe to toe with the 2017 winners Peshawar Zalmi on the following day.
In the first of the six double-headers to be played in the 32-day tournament, Multan Sultans will take on the 2020 runners-up Lahore Qalandars, followed by a contest between Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators.
After Karachi hosts 15 matches from Jan. 27 to Feb. 7, action will shift to Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium where the remaining 15 league matches and four play-offs will be held.
The final match of the tournament will also take place in Lahore.


Iran reacts to Pakistani media report on its ‘support’ of Houthi attack on UAE

Updated 22 January 2022

Iran reacts to Pakistani media report on its ‘support’ of Houthi attack on UAE

  • Iranian embassy says such claims would have a ‘detrimental effect on public opinion’ on Pakistan-Iran relations
  • Houthi rebels on Monday attacked Abu Dhabi with missiles and drones, killing three people, including a Pakistani national

ISLAMABAD: The Iranian embassy in Islamabad said on Friday it denied as “baseless accusations” a report by a Pakistani newspaper that suggested Tehran had supported Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a recent carry out attacks on the UAE.
Houthi rebels on Monday attacked the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi with missiles and drones, setting off explosions in fuel trucks that killed three people, including a Pakistani national, and injured six others.
English-language daily Dawn on Wednesday published an editorial titled “UAE targeted,” that said it was unlikely for the Houthis to develop such capabilities “without Iranian assistance.”
Reacting to the publication, the Iranian embassy issued a statement saying the newspaper had “put up negative and baseless accusations and allegations against the Islamic Republic of Iran” by accusing it of supporting the attackers “without presenting any reason or document.”
It said it “strongly denied the allegations” by the Pakistani newspaper, adding that “such claims would have a detrimental effect on public opinion toward the relations between the two countries and to overshadow the positive dimensions of relations and cooperation between the two governments for peace and durable stability in the region.”
“It is obvious that the publication of negative and untruth material is not in line with the good neighborliness and the growing trajectory of comprehensive relations between the two friendly and brotherly countries of Iran and Pakistan.”

This handout satellite image made available by Planet Labs PBC shows white fire-suppressing foam after a blaze at a fuel depot of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) in the Musaffah industrial district in the Emirati capital, on January 17, 2022. (AFP_

Dawn’s editorial team declined comment despite a request by Arab News.
The Arab coalition in Yemen has been fighting Houthi rebels, who have also repeatedly targeted Saudi Arabia with cross-border strikes.
In 2019, Houthi drone attacks on Saudi Aramco’s facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia had ignited large fires that had forced closure of both facilities and cut the kingdom’s production by nearly half.


Saudi diplomat murder: Pakistan seeks Tehran assistance to arrest suspects from Iran

Updated 9 min 42 sec ago

Saudi diplomat murder: Pakistan seeks Tehran assistance to arrest suspects from Iran

  • Hassan Al-Qahtani was killed by gunmen in Pakistan’s southern metropolis of Karachi in 2011
  • In November last year, Pakistani authorities established a special team to investigate the murder

KARACHI: Pakistani police have asked for assistance from authorities in Tehran in apprehending the suspected killers of a Saudi diplomat, who are believed to be hiding in Iran, a counterterrorism official said on Friday.
Hassan Al-Qahtani, an employee of the Saudi consulate in Pakistan’s southern metropolis of Karachi, was killed in 2011, when gunmen opened fire on his car in the city’s Defense neighborhood.
In November last year, Pakistani authorities established a special team to investigate the murder after previous probes yielded no result. Counter Terrorism Department Deputy Inspector General Omar Shahid Hamid told Arab News at the time that the team was working on “fruitful leads” from the country’s intelligence.
Investigation materials seen by Arab News include a November request to Iranian authorities for assistance in the case against three suspects in Al-Qahtani’s murder — Ali Mustehsan, Raza Imam, and Syed Waqar Ahmed — over their “involvement in target killing and terrorism activities in Pakistan.”
“We have written for mutual legal assistance from Iran,” a Counter Terrorism Department told Arab News on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
“We believe that all three accused are absconding in Iran, and we cannot arrest them without the assistance of their law enforcement.”

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier stands guard outside the Saudi consulate in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on May 11, 2011, following an attack. (AFP)

He said red notices for Mustehsan and Ahmed have already been issued, while police have called for the Federal Investigation Agency to initiate the process of issuing one for Imam as well.
Imam, alias Manzar, has a 1-million-rupee ($13,400) bounty on his head and has already been sentenced to death in two different cases, according to the Sindh police wanted list. He is a member of the banned Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan militant organization.
Mustehsan, alias Syed Waseem Ahsan Naqvi, belongs to the same organization.


In wildlife conservation initiative, northwestern Pakistan increases number of protected areas

Updated 22 January 2022

In wildlife conservation initiative, northwestern Pakistan increases number of protected areas

  • These areas are designated to ensure conservation of flora and fauna, mitigate environmental disasters
  • Initiative comes as the UN declared years 2021 through 2030 as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

PESHAWAR: Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has launched a major wildlife conservation project by designating several new sites in diverse ecological zones as protected areas, a provincial minister told Arab News. 
The initiative comes as the UN has declared years 2021 through 2030 as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. 
Given KP’s landmass, it will collectively take the size of these special zones from 10.22 percent to 14.91 percent. 
“Our coverage of protected areas is around 15 percent but we intend to increase it to 17 percent in the coming year,” the provincial minister for forest, environment and wildlife, Syed Ishtiaq Urmar, said earlier this week. 
“I am sure we will meet our ambitious target and achieve global standards by further increasing the volume of protected areas such as wetlands, national parks and wildlife reserves.”

In this undated photo, backpackers walk past a hillside in Kamal Ban National Park, a protected area in Mansehra district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (Photo courtesy: KP Forest Environment & Wildlife Department)

He said that designating appropriate sites as protected areas was helpful for the conservation of flora and fauna, adding it could ultimately reduce environmental challenges such as droughts and flooding.
According to KP’s Wildlife and Biodiversity Act, 2015, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, biosphere reserves and game reserves all fall under protected areas. 
Pakistan is signatory to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, making officials of the wildlife department say they aspire to meet international benchmarks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 
“The initiative aims to preserve and rehabilitate threatened or endangered wildlife species in their natural habitats,” KP Forest Environment and Wildlife Department spokesman Latif-ur-Rehman said. “It will play a highly significant role in the protection and conservation of wildlife.” 

In this undated photo, backpackers walk past a hillside in Kamal Ban National Park, a protected area in Mansehra district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (Photo courtesy: KP Forest Environment & Wildlife Department)

Dr. Muhammad Nafees, who teaches environmental sciences at the Peshawar University, told Arab News that about 12 percent of the country’s land had been declared protected by the government, though the international benchmark was 31 percent. 
He said the KP’s initiative was “encouraging,” but the whole country needed to devise a proper management plan for protected areas and infrastructure around them to “ensure effective outcomes.” 
He added that the inhabitants of these areas should also be given incentives to make the initiative successful. 
“For example, if we want to breed particular species of birds in a certain area, for instance, we will have to completely ban its hunting there,” Nafees said. “Protected areas mean that human activities should be curtailed over there to achieve long-term environmental targets and purposes.” 


Pakistan to close schools with high COVID-19 positivity for one week 

Updated 22 January 2022

Pakistan to close schools with high COVID-19 positivity for one week 

  • Health authorities will carry out massive COVID-19 testing in educational institutes in major omicron-hit cities 
  • On Friday, the South Asian nation recorded its highest daily virus cases since the beginning of the pandemic 

ISLAMABAD: Educational institutions with a high coronavirus positivity ratio would be closed for a week across Pakistan, the country’s pandemic response body announced on Friday, as the South Asian nation reported its highest daily infections since the start of the pandemic. 

Pakistan recorded 23 deaths and 7,678 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, according to official figures. The country reported the previous record high number of daily cases on June 13, 2020, when 6,825 people had tested positive for the virus. 

The virus positivity ratio in the country shot up to 12.93 percent from 11.55 percent the previous day as it continues to battle an omicron-driven fifth wave of virus infections. 

Health authorities have carried out COVID-19 testing in education institutes in major omicron-hit cities to ascertain the disease spread among students and ensure accurate disease mapping. 

The data suggested a strong correlation between vaccination levels and infection rate in various cities, prompting the authorities to take different measures, including aggressive testing in educational institutes over the next two weeks. 

“Education institutions / premises / sections / specific classes with high positivity to be closed for ONE Week,” the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), Pakistan’s top pandemic response body, said in a statement. 

“Provincial Administration in consultation with District Health, Education Authorities and School Administrations to set a threshold of cases for deciding such closures.” 

Federating units would carry out special vaccination drives in schools to ensure 100 percent vaccination of students over 12 years of age, the NCOC added. 

The rise in COVID-19 cases comes as authorities in the South Asian nation impose new restrictions to curb the fast-spreading omicron strain that is fueling the fifth wave of infections in the country. 

Earlier this week, the NCOC banned indoor gatherings and imposed restrictions on schools from January 24 in cities where the COVID-19 positivity rate was above 10 percent. 

But despite the surge, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of a lockdown, saying Pakistan could not bring its economy to a standstill.