In unprecedented protest, thousands of women march for rights in Pakistan’s Gwadar

Women march for rights in Gwadar, Balochistan, on November 29, 2021 (AN photo by Muhammad Sadaqat)
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Updated 01 December 2021

In unprecedented protest, thousands of women march for rights in Pakistan’s Gwadar

  • Protests against lack of basic facilities have gone on for over two weeks under banner of “Give Gwadar its Rights”
  • Thousands of women joined the protests on Monday in what analysts have called "largest women’s rally in Balochistan’s history"

QUETTA: Thousands of women in Pakistan’s Gwadar marched on the streets of the port city this week demanding basic rights and action against illegal trawling in the Arabian Sea, which protesters say has rendered local fisherfolk and others jobless.
Gwadar is in Pakistan’s impoverished southwestern province of Balochistan, a sparsely populated, mountainous, desert region bordering Afghanistan and Iran. China is involved in the development of the Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea as part of a $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is itself part of China's Belt and Road infrastructure project.
But locals of the city have long complained that Chinese presence and investment in the area has done little to improve their lives, particularly with regards to water scarcity and jobs. Protests against the lack of basic facilities have gone on for over two weeks under the banner of “Give Gwadar its Rights,” but in an unprecedented development, thousands of women joined the protests on Monday, and also participated in a sit-in on Tuesday. 




Women march for rights in Gwadar, Balochistan, on November 29, 2021 (AN photo by Muhammad Sadaqat)

Social media and TV footage on Monday showed thousands of women on the streets in what analysts have called "the largest women’s rally in the history of Balochistan province."
“Thousands of women have poured into the streets of Gwadar because a majority of people in Gwadar have been turning jobless,” protester Sughra Wadela, 19, told Arab News. “Previously we used to earn enough money through the fishing industry as men in Gwadar only have fishing as a source of living, but illegal trawling has ruined the business which has been the profession of our ancestors for many decades.”
“Majority of people in Gwadar are starving because the sea in Gwadar is empty due to illegal trawling,” she added. 




Women march for rights in Gwadar, Balochistan, on November 29, 2021 (AN photo by Muhammad Sadaqat)

Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman, a cleric leading the protest movement, said the demonstrations would continue until the government took actions and met the demands for basic rights. Critics of the central government in the province have long complained Balochistan, 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. 
“We have been protesting against illegal trawling, restrictions of business on the Pakistan-Iran border, unnecessary security check-posts and the drugs’ trade in the city,” Rehman told Arab News. “The government has issued four notifications on our demands but we haven’t seen any action on the ground.”
He said the protesters would block the coastal highway connecting Gwadar to Pakistan’s financial hub of Karachi and other parts of the country from Friday if action was not taken by then. 
Masi Zeni, 57, who participated in Monday's rally said young people in Gwadar were taking to drugs as drug dealers and smugglers were being allowed to operate with full impunity. 
“Despite various complaints, the administration didn’t take any action against people involved in the drug trade,” she said. “Opium, poppy, marijuana and ice are being sold to our youth, which will destroy their future.”
According to a local fishermen union, 80% of the population in Gwadar is associated with the fishing sector and has few other job prospects.
A majority of family members of Sameera Siddique, 40, work as fishermen in Gwadar, she said, but were now “sitting empty handed because of illegal trawling." 
“Majority men in Gwadar have been taking loans to fulfil their daily financial needs,” she said. 
Zahoor Buledi, provincial minister for Planning and Development, who has been heading the government's negotiations committee, said the incumbent government in Balochistan believed the people of Gwadar should be given all basic rights, and said their demands would be addressed on priority. 
“The members provincial assembly from Makran Division have toppled the previous regime [of chief minister Jam Kamal Khan last month] because we had realized that the government was neglecting the people of Gwadar,” Buledi said at a press conference on Tuesday, “but the current regime is serious about giving all rights to people living in every corner of the province.”


Pakistan arrests key suspect in Karachi bombing that killed three Chinese nationals

Updated 6 sec ago

Pakistan arrests key suspect in Karachi bombing that killed three Chinese nationals

  • The three Chinese nationals were killed after a woman suicide bomber blew herself up at Karachi University
  • CM Shah also meets a Chinese delegation, briefs on security arrangements for 3,637 Chinese nationals in Sindh

KARACHI: Pakistan police have arrested a key suspect in connection with an April bombing that killed three Chinese nationals at a university campus in the southern port city of Karachi, a senior police official said on Monday. 

The three Chinese nationals were among four people killed on April 26, when a woman suicide bomber blew herself up outside the Confucius Institute at Karachi University. The separatist Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack. 

Militant groups based in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province have frequently targeted Chinese interests in the country, where Beijing has invested heavily in infrastructure projects that are part of a multibillion-dollar joint regional connectivity initiative, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 

“In the in-depth investigation of the case, technical and ground sources have been utilized,” Sindh IG Ghulam Nabi Memon was quoted as saying, in a statement shared by the Sindh chief minister’s office. 

“With the efforts of the CTD Intelligence team, an important accused has been arrested. The details of the investigation have been shared with the Chinese concerned authorities.” 

The Sindh government spokesman, Murtaza Wahab, and senior police officials are due to share details of the arrest at a press conference in Karachi today, on Tuesday. 

Also at Monday’s meeting, CM Murad Ali Shah and a Chinese delegation, led by deputy director-general of China’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) Gao Fei, discussed security arrangements for Chinese nationals working in Sindh, according to the statement. 

The chief minister said his government had deployed 3,361 security men, including 1500 police, 517 army personnel, 173 Rangers, 28 Frontier Corps (FC) personnel and 1,143 private security guards, for the security of 3,637 Chinese nationals, who were working on eight CPEC projects in Sindh. 

“The Chinese delegation told the chief minister that they were technically strengthening CTD and the Special Branch of Sindh Police,” the statement read. 

The Karachi University bombing was the first major attack on Chinese nationals in Pakistan since last year, when a suicide bomber blew up a passenger bus, killing 13 people, including nine Chinese working on the Dasu Hydropower project in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 

Beijing has pledged over $60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan under the CPEC framework which is central to its initiative to rebuild a new “Silk Road” through land routes and sea lanes to connect with markets in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. 


Military leaders to brief Pakistani lawmakers on talks with local Taliban today

Updated 21 min 32 sec ago

Military leaders to brief Pakistani lawmakers on talks with local Taliban today

  • Over 100 lawmakers, officials will attend the in-camera briefing at Parliament House
  • Military officials likely to brief on negotiations with the outlawed Pakistani Taliban

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) will hold an in-camera meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday, the lower house of Pakistan parliament said, which will be briefed by top military officials on talks with the Pakistani Taliban. 

Over 100 lawmakers and officials would attend the meeting to discuss the negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban, or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is a separate movement that shares common roots with the militants that took power in Afghanistan last year, local media reported. 

The TTP, which has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan since 2007, on June 4 extended a cease-fire with the government for an indefinite period, after two days of talks with a delegation of Pakistani tribal elders that were facilitated by the Afghan Taliban. 

“6th in-camera meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security will be held on Tuesday, the 5th July 2022 at 3:00 p.m. in the Chamber of National Assembly, Parliament House,” the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan parliament, said on Twitter. 

“The agenda will include the Briefing on current issues of National Security.” 

Last month, Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership after a meeting in Islamabad agreed that talks with the Pakistani Taliban were taking place within the ambit of the constitution and any decision on negotiations with the outlawed group would be taken with parliament’s approval. 

After the meeting, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah announced that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would hold an in-camera briefing in parliament to inform legislators about the progress in negotiations. 

The TTP is asking Pakistan to scrap a 2018 law that did away with the semi-independent status of the former tribal regions that dates back to the British colonial rule. The law aimed to grant equal rights to millions of residents in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) once they were incorporated into Pakistan’s authority as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 

The Pakistani Taliban also want Pakistani troops to pull out of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, release all TTP fighters in government custody and revoke all cases against them.


Ex-PM Khan moves top court against law revoking voting rights of Pakistani expats

Updated 04 July 2022

Ex-PM Khan moves top court against law revoking voting rights of Pakistani expats

  • Khan enjoys widespread support among some nine million Pakistanis living abroad
  • Last November, Khan government passed a law allowing electronic vote counting

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman and former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday filed a petition in the Supreme Court against recent amendments in election laws under which the voting rights of overseas Pakistanis through internet voting have been revoked.

The Pakistani parliament on June 9 passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022, under which overseas Pakistanis cannot vote through i-voting and electronic voting machines (EVMs) will not be used in the next election, scheduled for August 2023.

“Khan, filing the petition through his lawyers, has made the federal government, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), and National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) parties in the case,” Geo News reported.

Khan urged the court to declare the amendments “unconstitutional, ultra vires and void, ab initio and to strike down the same.”

“Direct the ECP and all relevant authorities to take necessary steps to give effect to the right of overseas Pakistanis to vote in all future elections, especially the upcoming general elections from their country of residence,” the petition reads.

It also asked the court to direct the Election Commission of Pakistan to grant necessary approvals and funds to the National Database and Registration Authority to develop a new i-voting system to be used in the next general election.

“Grant a continuing mandamus and supervise the process of putting in place a system for ensuring that overseas Pakistanis are able to cast their votes in all future elections, especially the upcoming general elections, from their country of residence,” the petition reads.

Last November, while Khan was still prime minister - he was ousted in April this year in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence - Pakistan's parliament passed a law allowing electronic vote counting despite furious protests from the opposition which said it had been pushed through by the government to rig the next election.

Khan’s government had for months been trying to pass the law that allowed overseas Pakistanis to cast their ballot online.

Ex-PM Khan enjoys widespread support among some nine million Pakistanis living abroad.

Pakistan has a history of parties alleging vote rigging after every election. Khan has said he believes electronic vote counting will ensure transparency.


IMF program on track, Pakistani finance minister says, refuting media reports

Updated 04 July 2022

IMF program on track, Pakistani finance minister says, refuting media reports

  • “No truth to it,” Miftah Ismail says about reports IMF program “further postponed” over dispute on “anti-corruption regulations”
  • Pakistan last week said it had received targets from IMF that once ratified would pave way for resumption of stalled bailout scheme

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani finance minister Miftah Ismail said on Monday talks to resume an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout program, suspended earlier this year, were “on track,” refuting media reports that the scheme had been postponed.

Pakistan last week said it had received economic and financial targets from the IMF that once agreed and ratified should pave the way for the lender to unlock a suspended $6 billion loan program.

Pakistan desperately needs the money to avert a balance of payment crisis that is being brought closer by the day as result of the sharp rise in global oil and commodity prices. Central bank foreign currency reserves have fallen dangerously low, and the economy is reeling from a sharp depreciation in the Pakistani rupee and double-digit inflation.

Pakistan entered the IMF program in 2019 spread over three years and three months, but with less than half the amount disbursed, the IMF suspended the bailout earlier this year after the previous prime minister, Imran Khan, announced unfunded subsidies for the oil and power sectors. Khan’s government was ousted in April.

A Pakistani news website reported on Monday the IMF program had been “further postponed and the point of dispute is the improvement of anti-corruption regulations.”

“I have been reading with some amusement all the tweets and stories about IMF program being postponed or delayed due to some anti-corruption law,” Ismail said on Twitter. “There is no truth to it. The IMF program is on track.”

 

Needing to get back in the IMF’s good graces, the new government, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, has removed fuel subsidies, and made adjustments in a budget presented on June 10 that aimed at reducing the government’s fiscal deficit, which was one of the IMF’s key requirements.

Delivering an update following talks between Pakistani and IMF officials, Ismail said in a tweet last week that government had received the IMF’s Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP) containing economic and fiscal targets under the seventh and eighth reviews of the program.

Having the two reviews completed at the same time raises the prospect of $1.9 billion being disbursed once the IMF board gives the all clear to resume the bailout program.


With fuel prices at record highs, Pakistani carpool app registers over 7,000 user within week

Updated 04 July 2022

With fuel prices at record highs, Pakistani carpool app registers over 7,000 user within week

  • Pakistan reported 21.3 percent inflation in June, a 13-year high, following an over 90% increase in fuel rates since May
  • Founder Mughira Irfan says carpooling expected to grow as inflationary outlook remains elevated for current fiscal year

KARACHI: A Pakistani startup offering online carpool service has received an “overwhelming” response in the wake of the recent fuel price hikes in the country, its founder said on Monday, with over 7,000 users signing up for the app in a week.

Last month, Pakistan reported 21.3 percent inflation, a 13-year high, following an over 90 percent increase in fuel rates since May 26.

Statistics show the rise in transportation costs contributed 61.46 percent to the overall inflation recorded in June this year.

“In the current circumstances, carpooling with enhanced security precautions is becoming an economically viable solution to the rising fuel costs,” Mughira Irfan, who launched the DriveLu app last Monday, told Arab News. 

“We have received overwhelming response from users that include both riders and drivers,” he added. “Within a week of its official launch, the number of users of the app went beyond 7,000. This was a number we expected to achieve after a few months.”

Irfan said he had started working on the idea when he was in university and had to travel on crowded buses.

“The idea was close to my heart because I used to face this issue during my university life,” he said. “I even waited for buses for more than an hour since they were mostly overcrowded.”

He recalled coming across people who offered him a ride for a nominal price.

“I realized there was a space here and people wanted to pick you up and give you rides for money,” Irfan said.

The startup founder said his idea was to turn a car into an asset that not only provided a safe commutation solution but also became an earning tool.

“The main goal was that if a vehicle was taken to the road, it should be an asset and help generate money,” he added. “The whole purpose was to bring down a driver’s fuel cost to zero and give him the opportunity to earn some additional income.”

Asked about the security of drivers and riders, he said they were both verified through their computerized national identity cards while an additional security button was also added to the app.

“We have addressed the issue of security because we think that carpooling now needs to be trusted by more people,” Irfan said. “We have the driver’s and rider’s CNIC information which is a must for both. Also, the vehicles’ registration information is always available with us. We even take CNIC numbers from single riders since there is no compromise on it.”

He said his team was also reaching out to the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) for automation of the CNIC verification system.

“Currently we are manually doing this but our hope is that automation will reduce chances of error,” he said. “The embedded panic button in the app can also alert our monitoring team.”

The startup founder said he was planning to initially offer the service in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and their surrounding areas, adding that demand was also coming from other cities. 

As Pakistan’s inflationary outlook remains elevated for the current fiscal year, Irfan said he was hopeful the carpool idea would gain further traction. 

Pakistani startups have been on the global radar since 2021 when the country received about $365 million, accounting for over 60 percent of all deals completed by such firms within the past seven years.

The flow of funds also continued in the first two quarters of 2022, accounting for $266 million, according to Invest2Innovate and Alpha Beta Core data.