Pakistan announces award for man who tried shielding Sri Lankan victim of Sialkot lynching 

A girl along with others carries a sign, condemning the lynching of the Sri Lankan manager of a garment factory after an attack on the factory in Sialkot, during a protest in Lahore, Pakistan, December 4, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 05 December 2021

Pakistan announces award for man who tried shielding Sri Lankan victim of Sialkot lynching 

  • Priyantha Kumara was publicly attacked and killed by a Muslim mob on Friday over blasphemy allegations 
  • Police in Pakistan’s Punjab have arrested six more suspects, taking the number of detainees to 124 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday announced a gallantry award for the man, who tried shielding Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara lynched in Punjab’s Sialkot city earlier this week, against a mob of vigilantes. 

Kumara worked at a factory in the northeastern Pakistani city of Sialkot and was publicly attacked and killed by a Muslim mob on Friday over allegations he had committed blasphemy. 

Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Pakistan, and carries the death penalty. International and domestic rights groups say accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores. 

In videos circulating on social media, one of Kumara’s colleagues, Malik Adnan, was seen confronting a group of vigilantes and making desperate attempts to protect the Sri Lankan national. He, however, could not succeed in his attempts. 

“On behalf of the nation, I want to salute moral courage and bravery of Malik Adnan who tried his utmost to shelter and save Priyantha Diyawadana from the vigilante mob in Sialkot incl[uding] endangering his own life by physically trying to shield victim,” PM Khan said in a Twitter post. 

“We will award him Tamgha-i-Shujaat [Medal of Bravery].” 

The announcement coincided with the arrest of six more suspects in the lynching case. 

“Punjab police have identified and arrested six more main suspects in the last 12 hours with the help of CCTV footage and mobile calls data. The suspects were hiding at the houses of their friends and relatives,” Punjab police said on Twitter. 

Of the total 124 detainees, it said, 19 suspects had a central role in the lynching according to the investigation so far. 

The remains of the deceased Sri Lankan national would be flown to Sri Lanka on Monday at the “state cost,” the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said. 

“The Sri Lanka High Commission in Islamabad has requested an investigation report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan regarding the death of Diyawadanage Don. Nandasiri Priyantha Kumara,” it said in a statement. 

“The Sri Lanka High Commission in Islamabad, in coordination with the Foreign Ministry, is also in discussions with the Pakistan authorities and the employer of the deceased regarding payment of compensation.” 

On Saturday, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed grief over the lynching of Kumara in Pakistan. He said he was “shocked to see the brutal and fatal attack” on Kumara by “extremist mobs in Pakistan”. “My heart goes out to his wife and family,” Rajapaksa said in a tweet. 

PM Khan said on Saturday night said he had spoken to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and assured him that justice would be done in Kumara’s lynching case. 

Pakistan and Britain to sign repatriation agreement on convicted criminals soon

Updated 7 min 42 sec ago

Pakistan and Britain to sign repatriation agreement on convicted criminals soon

  • According to Radio Pakistan, the understanding was reached during a meeting between the Pakistani interior minister and British high commissioner
  • Pakistani authorities have frequently pledged to bring back the country’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from London

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United Kingdom have decided to finalize and sign an agreement for the repatriation of convicted citizens and criminals at the earliest, reported the state-owned Radio Pakistan on Tuesday.
The understanding was reached between the two sides during a meeting between Pakistan’s interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and British high commissioner Christian Turner in Islamabad.
The two countries have been negotiating a criminal extradition treaty for the last several years.
The Pakistani authorities have frequently pledged to bring back the country’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from Britain who was found guilty in a corruption reference by an accountability court and sentenced to prison for 10 years in December 2018.
Sharif began his prison term in Pakistan but was temporarily released on medical bail and flew out to London in November 2019.
Since then, he has not returned to his country.
“It was realized that the agreement is in the interest of both the countries and there is a need to accelerate progress on it,” the Radio Pakistan said. “The two sides were also of the view that bilateral agreements will further strengthen cooperation between the two countries.”
The Pakistani interior minister said his country attributed immense importance to its ties with the UK.
The British high commissioner also acknowledged the “friendly and multi-faceted relationship” between the two countries while appreciating Pakistan’s assistance with the evacuation of foreign nationals from Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August 2021.

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

Updated 1 min 29 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.”

Pakistan's information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain addresses a press conference after the federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan, on January 18, 2022. (Photo courtesy: PID)

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 health care 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 18 January 2022

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.