Pakistan offers to host ‘extraordinary’ meeting of OIC foreign ministers on Afghanistan

National flags of the members of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) states flying in front of the clock of the Abraj al-Bait Towers which overlooks the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on November 17, 2016. (AFP/File)
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Updated 30 November 2021

Pakistan offers to host ‘extraordinary’ meeting of OIC foreign ministers on Afghanistan

  • Saudi Arabia has called for ministerial-level meeting to discuss humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan on December 17
  • UN agencies have been raising concerns nearly 23 million Afghans face acute food shortages, crisis will be exacerbated by winter

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has endorsed an initiative by Saudi Arabia to request an ‘extraordinary session’ of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) to assess the situation in Afghanistan, and offered to host the meeting next month. 
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.


Pakistan imported over $2 billion of coronavirus vaccines – information minister

Updated 13 sec ago

Pakistan imported over $2 billion of coronavirus vaccines – information minister

  • Chaudhry Fawad Hussain says unvaccinated people are suffering more due to the spread of the omicron variant
  • Pakistan reported over 5,000 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, taking the ICU occupancy rate up by 30 percent

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Tuesday the country had imported over $2 billion of coronavirus vaccines to protect people from the debilitating respiratory disease amid a rising current account deficit.

Addressing a news conference after the federal cabinet meeting, he said the government examined the COVID-19 situation caused by the spread of the omicron strain.

Pakistan's top pandemic response body announced earlier in the day the country had reported 5,034 new cases of coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, taking the overall positivity ratio to 9.45 percent. It also informed that 827 COVID-19 patients were in critical care across Pakistan.

Hussain told the media the federal cabinet evaluated the pandemic situation along with the official vaccination campaign.

"Pakistan has imported more than $2 billion of vaccines to immunize its people," he said. "The import of medicine had a major impact on our current account deficit as well."

The minister emphasized it was important to get vaccinated amid rising number of new infections.

"Those who are fully vaccinated and have received booster shots are only negligibly affected by omicron," he continued. "However, those who are not inoculated are suffering from this strain a lot more."

According to a statement released by the Prime Minister Office after the meeting, the country's planning minister Asad Umar gave a detailed briefing to the federal cabinet on the spread of the omicron variant, saying the number of current cases had increased to 5,000 per day while the hospitalization rate had increased by 2.5 times.

He added that the number of patients had gone up by 30 percent in intensive care units in Pakistan.

The statement said the cabinet called for ensuring the implementation of healthcare guidelines in the country, including the use of face masks and vaccinations to prevent the spread of the omicron variant.

"However, the cabinet reiterated its commitment that the government would refrain from taking steps that would harm business and economic activity," it added.

 


Government says central bank autonomy not without checks and balances

Updated 57 min 59 sec ago

Government says central bank autonomy not without checks and balances

  • The IMF wanted Pakistan to grant maximum independence to the central bank to end any possible political interference
  • A senior Pakistani minister says the oversight mechanism was built into the law after ‘hard negotiations’ with the lending agency

ISLAMABAD: A senior Pakistani minister on Tuesday criticized the opposition for making a legislation regarding the central bank’s autonomy controversial, saying the new law was not without checks and balances which were incorporated after “hard negotiations” with the International Monetary Fund.
The law was approved by the country’s national assembly last week and was enacted on the international financial institution’s insistence which had been demanding it to protect the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) from any political interference.
The IMF executive board is scheduled to review Pakistan’s progress in terms of the implementation of structural reforms under a $6 billion loan program and may release another tranche of $1 billion later this month.
Pakistan’s energy minister Hammad Azhar told a news conference in Islamabad that central banks were always kept autonomous in the world since there was enough evidence that it allowed developed nations to bring down inflation and ensure economic growth.
“The federal government will appoint the central bank’s board of directors whose members can even remove the state bank governor,” he said, adding: “We managed to secure this concession of appointing the state bank board along with its governor and deputy governor from the IMF after hard negotiations.”
Azhar maintained previous administrations tried to influence central bank officials while dictating them how to manage the county’s monetary policy.
He added a similar bill was also suggested in 2015 by the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party wherein it was willing to surrender all its powers to the central bank board.
The minister noted the government had brought about a comprehensive reform in the area which was also “demanded by serious Pakistani economists for a substantially long period.”
Refuting the opposition’s criticism over the law, he said it was only going to strengthen the country’s economy and ensure sustained growth momentum.


Oman’s naval chief meets Pakistani general, discusses military cooperation

Updated 18 January 2022

Oman’s naval chief meets Pakistani general, discusses military cooperation

  • General Nadeem Raza says defense cooperation between the two countries will have a positive impact on regional peace and security
  • Pakistan and Oman signed a memorandum of understanding in October 2020 to enhance military cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Commander Royal Navy of Oman Rear Admiral Saif bin Nasser bin Mohsen Al-Rahbi on Tuesday met with Pakistan’s Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Nadeem Raza in Rawalpindi and discussed ways of improving bilateral military cooperation, the military’s media wing, ISPR, said in a statement.
A day earlier, the Omani official held a meeting with Pakistan’s Naval Chief Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi in Islamabad to discuss bilateral defense ties.
Pakistan and Oman have always maintained a close relationship and the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to increase military cooperation in October 2020.
In his meeting with General Raza, Al-Rahbi discussed “security and regional issues and matters related to enhancing the level and scope of bilateral military engagements and cooperation in various fields between the two brotherly countries,” the ISPR read.
The statement noted that General Raza “emphasized the need to further enhance the existing defense and security cooperation and said that Pakistan-Oman cooperation will have a positive impact on peace and security in the region.”
“The visiting dignitary remained appreciative of the role of the Pakistan Armed Forces in building the capacity of Oman Armed Forces. He also acknowledged the sacrifices made by Pakistan in the war against terrorism,” it added.
Last week, Pakistani naval ships Rah Naward and Madadgar visited Oman’s Port Sultan Bin Qaboos along with Hamza submarine as part of overseas deployment.
“During the port stay, various bilateral activities including exchange visits onboard afloat units, orientation visits of military installations and coordination meetings were undertaken,” the Pakistan Navy said.


Pakistani policeman, two suspects killed in Islamabad ‘terrorism incident’ 

Updated 18 January 2022

Pakistani policeman, two suspects killed in Islamabad ‘terrorism incident’ 

  • Outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the ‘attack’ near the city’s famous G-9 market 
  • TTP is a separate group from the Afghan Taliban and has fought for years to overthrow the government in Islamabad 

ISLAMABAD: A policeman and two suspects were killed in a shootout in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad late Monday, in what the country’s interior minister described as a “terrorism incident.”
Two assailants opened fire at police officers standing guard near a market in G-9 sector, the police said, which triggered a shootout that killed an officer and both gunmen. Two policemen were injured in the attack, who were shifted to hospital.
Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Tuesday said the deceased suspects were “terrorists” and the shootout was actually an attack.
“Munawwar Shaheed, head constable, was on duty and the terrorists opened a burst on him. This wasn’t a burglary or robbery,” Ahmed said.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed places a wrath on the coffin of a policeman who lost his life in a gun attack in Islamabad on January 18, 2022. (Islamabad Police)

“This is a kind of a signal we have got that terrorism incidents have begun in Islamabad. This is the first incident of this year and we need to be very alert.”

He said the authorities had located the "terrorist sleeper cell" in Misrial, a Rawalpindi neighborhood some 20 kilometers from Islamabad.

“This is purely a terrorism issue,” Ahmed added.

Policemen pay tribute beside the coffin of a police officer who was killed in an overnight gunmen attack during the funeral ceremony in Islamabad on January 18, 2022. (AFP)

Militants have often targeted security forces in Pakistan’s southern Balochistan and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, but attacks like this have been a rarity in Islamabad.
The Pakistani Taliban, or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the “attack” in a statement.
The TTP is a separate movement from the Afghan Taliban and has fought for years to overthrow the government in Islamabad and rule with its own brand of Islamic Shariah law.
Last month, the group declared an end to a month-long cease-fire arranged with the aid of the Afghan Taliban, accusing the Pakistan government of breaching terms including a prisoner release agreement and the formation of negotiating committees.


Pakistani PM's aide visits UAE embassy in display of solidarity after Houthi attack 

Updated 18 January 2022

Pakistani PM's aide visits UAE embassy in display of solidarity after Houthi attack 

  • Tahir Ashrafi says they consider security and stability of UAE as Pakistan's security and stability 
  • UAE ambassador offers condolences over the death of a Pakistani in Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aide on the Middle East Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi on Tuesday visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy in Islamabad to express solidarity with the brotherly country a day after a drone attack on its capital, Abu Dhabi, by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi militia.

Houthi rebels on Monday attacked the Emirati capital with missiles and drones, setting off explosions in fuel trucks that killed three people, including a Pakistani national, and injured six others, and causing a fire close to the Abu Dhabi airport.

“The UAE is Pakistan's strongest friend and brother. [We] consider the security and stability of the UAE as Pakistan's security and stability,” Ashrafi told UAE Ambassador Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi.

“No force can weaken Pakistan-UAE relations,” the Pakistani PM's aide said.

Ambassador Al-Zaabi conveyed condolences from the UAE leadership over the killing of the Pakistani national, who was working for the Emirati oil giant, ADNOC.

“The injured are being fully treated and the UAE foreign ministry is in touch with the Pakistani embassy,” the UAE ambassador was quoted as saying in a statement issued from the office of the Pakistani PM's aide.

Ambassador Al-Zaabi thanked Pakistan for its solidarity and cooperation with the UAE.

Besides being a brotherly country, the UAE is also Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and a major source of investment in the South Asian country.

Around 1.6 million Pakistani expatriates in the UAE contributed remittances of more than $6 billion in the last financial year.