Hundreds of suspects booked for setting Pakistan police station on fire in alleged blasphemy case

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, Pakistan, on November 29, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 30 November 2021

Hundreds of suspects booked for setting Pakistan police station on fire in alleged blasphemy case

  • 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

ISLAMABAD: Police have registered cases against hundreds of suspects for attacking and setting fire to a police station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Charsadda district after demanding that officers hand over a man accused of burning the Holy Quran, Pakistani media reported on Tuesday.
A crowd of up to 5,000 people surrounded the police station in Charsadda town in the 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.
According to a police first information report (FIR) published in Dawn.com, police cases were registered “against 30 named suspects and between 300 to 400 unnamed suspects.”
Cases have been filed under sections 324 (attempted murder), 353 (assault or act to deter a public servant from discharging duty), 345 (wrongful confinement), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.), 427 (damage to property), 120 (concealing design to commit offense punishable with imprisonment), 148 and 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code along with Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
“The FIR, which was registered at the Tangi police station, stated that an angry mob gathered in front of the Mandani police station and wanted officials to hand over a man arrested for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran,” Dawn said. “The mob became violent and attacked police, before opening fire on officials present at the police post. It added that the mob entered the police post and also seized weapons and other valuables.”
According to the FIR, the mob set 22 vehicles on fire, including three police vans, and stole 12 submachine guns and ammunition. Police also confirmed that the Mandani police station and four posts were destroyed and set on fire during the protest.
Police told Dawn almost 30 people had been arrested so far, and schools and other educational institutions in the area had been closed. KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan chaired a meeting on the incident, saying “elements and criminals who had provoked people to damage public property had been identified and the person who had allegedly desecrated the Holy Quran had been arrested,” Dawn reported. 
“It was decided that strict action would be taken against those involved in vandalism, as the participants of the meeting condemned the incident,” a handout from the meeting said. “Speaking on the occasion, the chief minister also condemned the desecration of the Holy Quran, saying that the responsible person would be given stern punishment.”
Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and although no executions have been carried out, suspects are often killed by vigilantes.
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 laborer 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 hard-liners. She and her family later fled the country for Canada.
The country has frequently been paralyzed 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 Muhammad (peace be upon him) by a French satirical magazine.


President apologizes to senior citizen over administrative injustice by tax collection body

Updated 17 January 2022

President apologizes to senior citizen over administrative injustice by tax collection body

  • An 82-year-old taxpayer was made to undergo extreme agony after he demanded a small refund of Rs2,333
  • The president ordered punitive action against those who humiliated the elderly man by launching a litigation process

ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Sunday issued an apology to a senior Pakistani citizen who was mistreated by the country's tax collection body while instructing relevant authorities to take an action against those who dragged the 82-year-old into a litigation process to humiliate him for over a year.

According to the President Office, the senior taxpayer, Abdul Hamid Khan, had to undergo a lot of inconvenience after he demanded a refund of Rs2,333 ($13.21) which was refused by an official of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

Khan was subsequently dragged into a litigation process that lasted for over a year.

“Apologizing to the senior citizen Mr. Abdul Hamid Khan, the President said that our heads should hang in shame for the inconvenience caused by FBR to the senior citizen,” the statement said.

"Punitive action must be taken along the entire line of decision-makers in this case and chairman FBR should ensure that those responsible, in particular, and others, in general, go through courses to teach them priorities and courtesies," it quoted the president as saying.

Khan had claimed the refund on his income tax return for last year by submitting requisite documents of advance tax deduction on October 19, 2020.

“The complainant e-filed refund application on 19th October, 2020, followed by representation to FBR Chairman on 24th December, 2020,” the official statement said. “The Unit officer of FBR rejected his refund claim on the grounds that the applicant had failed to furnish the original certificates required for authentication.”

“This must be the most pitiful and shameful use of bureaucratic authority,” noted the president.

He also regretted that the FBR official had wasted everyone's time, including the tax ombudsman and the president himself.

The statement added Alvi “deplored that no one in the long chain of bureaucrats at the FBR deliberated over the issue to take note of the unfairness, pettiness and superfluousness of the matter.”


Afghanistan turns down Pakistan’s offer to export skilled labor

Updated 17 January 2022

Afghanistan turns down Pakistan’s offer to export skilled labor

  • The Pakistani prime minister offered to send qualified human resource to Afghanistan during a meeting last week
  • Afghanistan’s deputy information minister Zabihullah Mujahid told international media his country had enough educated young people

ISLAMABAD: The interim Taliban administration in Kabul politely turned down Pakistan’s offer to send skilled human resource to Afghanistan on Sunday, saying there were already enough educated young people in the war-battered country.
The idea of exporting “qualified and trained manpower” was floated by Prime Minister Imran Khan during an apex committee meeting on Friday “to stave off humanitarian crisis” to the neighboring state.

However, Afghanistan’s deputy information minister Zabihullah Mujahid in response to Pakistani PM Khan’s thanked Pakistan and said that the country did not need foreign labor, Afghan media said.

“There are enough educated young people to work in the ministries and there is no need for outside manpower,” Mujahid said in an audio recording that was released by an Afghan Taliban official based in the country’s political office in Qatar.

Earlier, Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai had also taken a similar stance while responding to the Pakistani prime minister’s statement.
Karzai wrote in a Twitter post that Afghanistan had experienced staff and professionals, as well as hundreds of thousands of educated young people, including girls and boys, who had been trained at various levels inside and outside the country.
Pakistan has tried to convince the world to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and plans to send its national security adviser Dr. Moeed Yusuf to the neighboring country this week to discuss the overall situation.
Last week, the administration in Islamabad renewed its appeal to the international community and relief agencies to provide aid at this critical juncture to the war-torn country to avert its economic collapse and save precious lives.
“The Apex Committee was informed that Afghanistan is at the verge of hunger and crisis situation during this harsh winter,” the PM Office said in a Twitter post. “The crisis makes it difficult for the people to get enough food and shelter.”

 


Earlier this month, a team of Pakistani engineers and technicians arrived in Kabul to ensure the installation and provision of medical equipment and medicines at three hospitals in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan had told Arab News last week the visit of the Pakistani engineers and technicians would be followed by other such tours in the future so the hospitals could be upgraded further.
The initiative was part of a Rs5 billion Humanitarian Assistance Package announced by the Pakistani prime minister for Afghanistan in November last year.

 

 


Punjab inquiry committee blames Murree tragedy on administrative negligence — local media

Updated 17 January 2022

Punjab inquiry committee blames Murree tragedy on administrative negligence — local media

  • The five-member committee probing the death of 23 snow-tourists in the popular mountainous resort completed its investigation on Sunday
  • A Pakistani court castigated the National Disaster Management Authority last week for not making adequate preparations to prevent the tragedy

ISLAMABAD: A five-member committee that was formed to probe the recent deaths of snow-tourists at a popular mountainous resort in Pakistan attributed the tragedy to administrative negligence after finishing its investigation on Sunday, local media reported.

The committee was set up by the provincial administration of Punjab last week after 23 people, including women and children, lost their lives after getting stuck in a snowstorm in Murree for several hours.

Most of the victims suffered hypothermia as temperatures fell to -8°C (17.6°F). Officials said some died of carbon monoxide poisoning from running their car heaters while their mufflers were choked by snow.

While the inquiry committee is yet to prepare its report which will be presented to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in the next few days, Geo News reported that it found the local administration responsible for not doing enough while the tragedy was unfolding in Murree.

"The probe has revealed that on the day of the incident, several snow ploughs were parked at the same place which led to road blockages, the administrative staff was absent from duty, while a blizzard warning from the metrological department was blatantly neglected, according to sources," the report said on Monday.

The committee recorded statements of several tourists along with officials of various administrative departments in Murree during its probe.

The Islamabad High Court also looked into the incident last week, blaming the country's National Disaster Management Authority for not making adequate preparations to deal with the situation which led to the death of so many tourists.


Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa signs agreements worth $8 billion at Expo Dubai

Updated 17 January 2022

Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa signs agreements worth $8 billion at Expo Dubai

  • Foreign firms, investors express keen interest in industrial, infrastructure, food processing and energy sectors
  • Feasibility reports of projects presented at the mega exhibition have already been completed, officials say

KARACHI: The provincial government of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province on Sunday signed over 40 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) at Expo 2020 Dubai that would bring foreign investment worth $8 billion, the KP investment board and officials said. 
Described as “the event of the century,” the expo kicked off in October, bringing together representatives from more than 190 countries. The exhibition is the largest global gathering since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic and will run until April 2022. 
Pakistan’s pavilion at the expo has been highlighting investment opportunities, tourism potential and cultural magnificence of the country. In January, its highlight is the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 
Foreign firms and investors expressed their keen interest in various projects in tourism, industrial, infrastructure, food processing, livestock, energy and power sectors, and a water sports theme park in KP’s Swabi district at an investment conference at Expo Dubai on Sunday. 
“International firms have signed 44 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) worth $8 billion during the Expo 2020 Dubai,” KP finance minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra said, while addressing attendees at the conference. 
Jhagra said the KP government had presented these projects in a better way. “For the promotion of tourism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the government is presenting ready projects at the expo for investment,” he said. 

KP finance minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra is addressing the attendees at the conference in Dubai, UAE, on January 16, 2022. (Photo courtesy: @kptourism/Twitter)

KP had vast investment opportunities in tourism, energy and power, infrastructure and other sectors, according to the minister. The Swat Expressway was built under a public-private partnership and now it was being extended to other cities to boost trade and economy, he said. 
Among the attendees at the conference were chief executive officers (CEOs) of the Samara Group, Mazaya Group (EGI), Jannat & AJ Group, Almasa Group and a number of Dubai-based and international investors, who expressed their willingness to invest in various tourism projects in the northwestern Pakistani province. 
“Investment groups that have signed MoUs include Enertech-Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), Private Office of Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook-Al-Maktoum, Samara Group, VR Group, Sigma Group, Malik Foams, Nobel Future Land & many others,” KP chief minister Mahmood Khan said on Twitter. 
“Investments in the development of food processing zones, integrated tourism zones (ITZ), Solarization of Economic Zones, Construction of Transmission Lines across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will help in transforming KP by creating economic opportunities and increase in employment.” 

 Jhagra said his government had planned to establish an Overseas Pakistan Council to facilitate investors, saying the process was currently in the legislation stage. The KP government had established a special economic zone (SEZ) in Rashakai and that people were now coming to invest in the province, he added. 
KP culture minister Shaukat Yousafzai said the province had a huge potential for investment and these agreements would help increase the flow of foreign investment into the province. 

Pakistan's ambassador to UAE Afzaal Mehmood (first left) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provincal ministers attend the ceremony at Expo 2020 Dubai in Dubai, UAE, on January 16, 2022. (Photo courtesy: @kptourism/Twitter)

Shahab Ali Shah, the KP additional chief secretary, said only those projects were presented at the expo, whose feasibility reports were complete and only investors were needed. 
“The government is ready to provide a one-window facility to investors,” he added. 


No decision on closure of schools amid rising COVID-19 infections in Pakistan

Updated 9 min 50 sec ago

No decision on closure of schools amid rising COVID-19 infections in Pakistan

  • The country’s pandemic response body says it will consider positivity rate of various education institutions before taking the decision
  • Pakistan reported over 4,000 new coronavirus cases for a third consecutive day on Monday

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s central pandemic response body held a meeting on Monday to discuss the epidemic curve, national vaccination strategy and disease prevalence across the country, though it postponed the decision of shutting down schools amid rising coronavirus infections in the absence of data on the positivity rate of various education institutions.

Prior to the meeting, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) reported over 4,000 new COVID-19 cases for a third consecutive day. According to official statistics, 4,340 people tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours, taking the positivity ratio to 8.71 percent in the country.

The NCOC meeting was chaired by Pakistan’s planning minister Asad Umar.

The country’s health chief and provincial health and education ministers also attended the session online.

“Decision about education institutions will be taken on data of positive cases of various institutions for which massive testing in education institutions is being carried out,” it said in an official statement.

The participants of the meeting discussed non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) and officially prescribed precautionary measures against COVID-19. They also discussed “global and regional trends of Omicron Virus,” the statement added.

“Keeping in view new disease prevalence, fresh set of NPIs was presented and discussed,” it continued, adding these NPIs would be “implemented by provinces in the next 48 hours after consultative process with all stakeholders.”

The fifth wave of COVID-19 infections is primarily driven by the highly transmissible omicron strain, which emerged in South Africa in November last year and rapidly spread to other parts of the world.

In its meeting on Saturday, the NCOC discussed the disease prevalence and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) in the wake of rising infections in the country, especially in urban centers, the state-run APP news agency reported.

“It reviewed the existing NPIs and called on provincial health and education ministers session on 17 January [20]22 to suggest the new set of NPIs focusing on education sector, public gatherings, marriage ceremonies, indoor/outdoor dining and transport sector,” the report read.

The NCOC decided to engage with provinces, especially Sindh, to take necessary measures to stem the spread of coronavirus.

It ordered a complete ban on inflight serving of meals and snacks from Monday. Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has been tasked to ensure people follow all coronavirus-related standard operating procedures (SOPs) at airports and on flights.

The NCOC called upon provincial governments to take stern action against violators of coronavirus SOPs and ensure the enforcement of the obligatory vaccination regime.

The pandemic response body also asked provinces to carry out immediate surveys of health care facilities, fast-track vaccination drive and ramp up efforts to achieve targets.