Noor Mukadam murder to OIC summit: Pakistan’s top news moments for 2021

The combination of photos shows Pakistan’s top news moments for 2021. (AFP/Social media photos)
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Updated 01 January 2022

Noor Mukadam murder to OIC summit: Pakistan’s top news moments for 2021

  • South Asian nation remained one of the most talked-about countries on news forums in 2021
  • Shocking murders and assaults to major diplomatic developments kept people glued to screens

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan remained one of the most talked-about countries on international news forums in 2021 for all the right and wrong reasons. From gruesome murders to assault of women, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit to cricket, all kept people glued to their television and computer screens. 
As we inch toward the year-end, let’s have a look back at what were the top news moments in Pakistan in 2021. 

The grisly murder of Noor Mukadam 

On July 20, just when the Muslim-majority Pakistani nation was celebrating Eid, Noor Mukadam, the 27-year-old daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat was found beheaded in an upscale neighborhood in Islamabad that shook the nation. The victim was the daughter of Shaukat Mukadam, a former Pakistani diplomat. 
The prime suspect, Zahir Jaffer, was arrested at the crime scene on the day of the murder. The horrifying details of the murder drew furor on the Internet and social media, with #JuticeforNoor, #NoorMukadam and #ZahirJaffer trending on top. 
The murder trial that began in October is one of the most closely watched in Pakistan’s recent history. At his indictment hearing in October, Jaffer admitted he had committed the “crime.” 
Others charged in the case include Jaffer’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, three of their household staff, Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel, and six workers from Therapy Works, a counseling center from where Jaffer had received certification to become a therapist and where he had been receiving treatment in the weeks leading up to the murder. 

Sialkot lynching of Sri Lankan national 

Priyantha Kumara, who worked as a manager at a factory in the city of Sialkot, was attacked and killed by a Muslim mob on December 3. 
The crowd also publicly burned his body over what police have said are accusations he desecrated religious posters. 
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. 

OIC Summit in Islamabad 

Pakistan on December 19 hosted the 17th Extraordinary Session of OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan, called by Saudi Arabia, in Islamabad. The purpose of the summit was to rally Muslims and other countries and international institutions to the aid of Afghanistan. 
Around 70 delegations from OIC member states, non-members and regional and international organizations attended the summit. Nearly 20 delegations were led by foreign ministers and 10 by deputies or ministers of state. The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Tukey, Azerbaijan, Iran, Oman, Kuwait, Indonesia and Malaysia were present at the Parliament House for the summit. 
The OIC agreed to establish a “humanitarian trust fund” to channel assistance to Afghanistan, appoint a special envoy on Afghanistan and work together with the UN in Afghanistan. 

Minar-e-Pakistan assault of woman 

On August 14, when Pakistanis were celebrating the Independence Day, a young woman TikToker, Ayesha Akram, was assaulted by a mob comprising hundreds of men at the Minar-e-Pakistan monument in Lahore and caused a major public outcry. 
Videos circulating on social media showed people tearing the clothes of the woman who was there to shoot a TikTok video. Police initially registered a case against 400 men and about 104 suspects were arrested. 
The incident took a number of dramatic turns when Akram’s audio message with her friend, Amir Sohail also known as Rambo, surfaced on the Internet about the apparent extortion of money from the suspects. 

Gwadar protests 

In Pakistan’s Gwadar port city hundreds of people staged a month-long protest against the government for not doing enough to prevent “illegal trawling” in the Arabian Sea, while pointing out the practice was depriving local residents of a major livelihood source. 
According to the protesters, over 2,000 trawlers from the neighboring province of Sindh have been regularly operating near the Gwadar seashore, though the provincial administration has not done enough to stop the practice. 
Gwadar has been central to the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that promises to secure the economic well-being of the people by enhancing regional trade and connectivity. 
The protesters later called off the sit-in in December after Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo visited the protest site and signed an agreement that acknowledged the government’s willingness to meet their demands. 

Pakistan broke World Cup jinx against India 

One of the most awaited moments in every Pakistani’s life was to watch Pakistan win against India in a cricket World Cup. 
On October 24, Pakistani skipper Babar Azam and wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan smashed unbeaten half-centuries as Pakistan crushed India by 10 wickets to register their first World Cup win over the archrivals in the high-voltage Twenty20 World Cup match in Dubai.  

Malala Yousafzai’s wedding 

Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai on December 9 announced her marriage to Asser Malik, making her followers flood her with congratulatory messages. 
Yousafzai, who survived an attempt on her life in 2012 by a Taliban gunman in her native town of Swat, shared the pictures of the event across her official social media accounts. Her announcement on Twitter and Instagram collectively amassed over 650,000 likes, with many celebrities and notable names sending her best wishes on her big day. 
“Congratulations, Malala and Asser,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote under Yousafzai’s announcement. “Sophie and I hope you enjoyed your special day – we’re wishing you a lifetime of happiness together.” 


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

Updated 4 min 38 sec ago

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 24 min 38 sec ago

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 thanked Islamabad for the suggestion during a BBC interview while saying that his country did not require outside labor.
“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 16 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 home, 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. 


Pakistan’s pandemic response body mulls virus curbs as infection rate continues to soar

Updated 8 min 30 sec ago

Pakistan’s pandemic response body mulls virus curbs as infection rate continues to soar

  • Provincial health and education ministers asked to propose restrictions for different sectors
  • Pakistan reported over 4,000 cases of coronavirus for the third consecutive day on Monday

ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), Pakistan’s top pandemic response body, is holding an important meeting on Monday to mull new restrictions relating to coronavirus, Pakistani state media reported, as the South Asian nation continues to fight a fifth wave of infections.
Pakistan reported over 4,000 new infections for the third consecutive day on Monday. According to official figures, 4,340 people tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours, taking the overall positivity rate to 8.71 percent in the country.

The fifth wave of the 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.