Pakistan troops end 70-hour-long operation with 20 militants killed in restive southwest

Pakistani army soldiers enter the Balochistan Police Training College in Quetta on October 24, 2016, after militants attacked the police academy. (AFP/File)
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Updated 06 February 2022
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Pakistan troops end 70-hour-long operation with 20 militants killed in restive southwest

  • Balochistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has been marred by an insurgency for two decades
  • Nine Pakistani soldiers were killed and six others sustained injuries in gunfights since Wednesday

QUETTA: Pakistani soldiers killed 20 separatist militants and concluded a 70-hour-long operation in a remote town bordering Iran in the country’s southwest, the Pakistani military and a government official said on Saturday, after a string of attacks rattled the restive Balochistan province this week. 
Militants from the outlawed Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) on Wednesday simultaneously launched assaults on paramilitary camps in Balochistan’s Naushki and Panjgur districts. 
While security forces eliminated all attackers in Naushki on Thursday, the operation in Panjgur was completed on Saturday, after Pakistani troops eliminated all attackers and regained control of the paramilitary camp.  
The Pakistani military’s media relations wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said both attacks were “repulsed successfully” by prompt response from troops, while a clearance operation was completed on Saturday. 
“In Naushki, nine terrorists were killed. Four security forces personnel including an officer embraced shahadat (martyrdom) during shootout with terrorists while repulsing terrorist attack at Naushki,” the ISPR said in a statement. 
“In Panjgur, security forces repulsed the terrorist attack after intense exchange of fire and terrorists fled from area. Four fleeing terrorists were killed at Panjgur while four terrorists were encircled the next day by security forces. All encircled terrorists were killed in today’s operation as they failed to surrender.” 




Security personnel stand beside a destroyed security post following overnight attacks by militants on security camps in Naushki district of Pakistan's Balochistan province on February 3, 2022. (AFP)

Five soldiers were killed and six others sustained injuries in the follow-up operations in Panjgur that lasted 72 hours, according to the statement. 
Pakistani troops also killed three militants, including two high-value targets, in a follow-up clearance operation in the Kech district. 
“Our security forces stand firm and resolutely committed to eliminating the menace of terrorism from our soil no matter what the cost,” the ISPR said. 
“Panjgur security clean-up operation has been completed after 70-hour-long battle with BLA Majeed Brigade’s terrorists,” Ziaullah Langove, an adviser to the Balochistan chief minister, told Arab News. 
“Seven terrorists, including suicide bombers, were killed and arms and explosives confiscated.” 
The BLA also confirmed the assault in Panjgur had been ended after 70 hours. 
The group said nine of its fighters attacked the paramilitary camp in Naushki and another seven fought in Panjgur. 
A curfew remained in place in Panjgur as security and law enforcement personnel continued hunting down militants over the last three days. 
Balochistan, the southwestern Pakistani province which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has been marred by an insurgency for the last two decades, fueled by anger that its abundant reserves of natural resources are not relieving citizens from crushing poverty. 
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project has inflamed grievances, with claims the vast influx of investment does not benefit locals. Separatist militants have frequently targeted Chinese interests, and while the economic corridor offers a lucrative gateway for China to the Indian Ocean, the security of its workers has long been a concern. 
On Friday, six people, including two paramilitary soldiers, were injured after a bomb attack targeted a Levies check-post in the Chaman district that borders Afghanistan. 


Pakistan PM says in UAE to seek joint investments, not loans 

Updated 29 sec ago
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Pakistan PM says in UAE to seek joint investments, not loans 

  • Pakistan and UAE business representatives sign three agreements in IT, energy and infotech
  • UAE one of Pakistan’s closest allies, has frequently financially bailed out South Asian nation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Thursday he was on a day-long visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) not to seek loans but to explore opportunities for joint investment and collaboration that would pave the way for “mutual benefits” for both nations.

Sharif arrived in Abu Dhabi on Thursday with a high-level delegation amid a concerted push by Pakistan to seek foreign investment as it navigates a challenging path to economic recovery. Sharif is scheduled to meet UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi later today, Thursday. 

The UAE is one of Pakistan’s closest allies and has frequently bailed out the South Asian country, joining Saudi Arabia and China in rolling over billions of dollars of loans to Pakistan last year to help it clinch a last-gasp deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and avoid a sovereign debt default. 

The UAE is Pakistan’s third-largest trading partner, after China and the United States. Policymakers in Pakistan consider the Gulf state an optimal export destination due to its geographical proximity, which minimizes transportation and freight costs while facilitating commercial transactions. The UAE is also home to more than a million Pakistani expatriates and the second-largest source of remittances to the South Asian country, after Saudi Arabia.

“Today I am here in this great country, this great brotherly country, not to seek loans but to seek joint collaboration, seek joint investments, which have mutual benefits … for the investor, and draw dividends through hard work, ingenuity, and by using modern tools and skills,” Sharif said at a roundtable conference where leading Pakistan and UAE businesses signed three agreements on information technology, energy and infotech.

Sharif said Pakistan, a country of 241 million people, offered great potential for investors, with a majority of its population comprising people aged between 15-30 years.

“We want to provide the highest quality vocational training and empower our youth with modern skills so that they can come to UAE, to Abu Dhabi, to Dubai, and by fulfilling legal formalities, open their offices here,” the PM said. 

Sharif said his government wanted to support Pakistani small and medium enterprises so they could provide their services through a remote mechanism in the UAE.

“I call you great ambassadors of Pakistan, but this is not enough,” Sharif said, referring to Pakistani businesses. “You have to learn from now the expertise and experience of our Emirati brothers and sisters.”

Pakistan has seen a flurry of foreign visits in recent weeks, including by the now deceased Iranian president, the Saudi foreign minister, a delegation of top Saudi companies as well as officials from Qatar, China, Japan, Turkiye and Central Asian countries, among others.

Reeling from high inflation, low forex reserves, and an unstable currency, Sharif has vowed to steer Pakistan out of its prolonged economic crisis by enhancing bilateral trade with allies and attracting more international investments. Islamabad is also currently in talks with the IMF to secure a new, longer-term bailout package of at least $6 billion. 


Pakistan’s main health body warns of Congo fever risk ahead of Eid Al-Adha

Updated 53 min 26 sec ago
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Pakistan’s main health body warns of Congo fever risk ahead of Eid Al-Adha

  • Congo fever is viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted to humans through contact with infected animals
  • NIH also urges timely and appropriate measures to ensure protection from heatstroke and typhoid fever

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s primary health body has issued an advisory for the prevention of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), a press release said on Thursday, in light of the upcoming Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha that could be a breeding ground for the tick-borne virus.

CCHF is a viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted to humans through contact with infected animals, mainly through handling livestock or their blood, tissue, or excrement. It can also be transmitted from human to human through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. The disease has a high fatality rate, and there is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for it. 

“During Eid Al-Adha, there is an unusual increase in the movement of animals from all provinces and increased contact between the general public and animals, raising the risk of the spread of Congo fever,” the National Institute of Health (NIH) said on Wednesday, advising people to wear light-colored clothing to easily detect ticks on fabric and avoid areas where ticks were prevalent.

The NIH also urged timely and appropriate measures to ensure protection from heatstroke and typhoid fever.

Pakistan has been experiencing severe climatic changes due to global warming in recent years which has led to heat waves, untimely rains and droughts.

A sunstroke is a form of hyperthermia and medical emergency during which the body temperature is elevated and can be fatal if not promptly treated, the health body said, adding that profuse or no sweating, dry skin, headaches, chills, slurred speech and dizziness were common signs of heatstroke.

Emphasizing precautionary measures during extreme heat, the health advisory advised people to avoid direct sunlight, drink plenty of water and use an umbrella or hat when outdoors. 

On May 21, authorities had urged people to stay indoors as the country was hit by an extreme heat wave that threatens to bring dangerously high temperatures and yet another round of glacial-driven floods. Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, shut all schools for a week because of the heat, affecting an estimated 18 million students.

The country’s chief meteorologist has warned that the heat wave would “intensify” from today, May 23, onwards.

Regarding typhoid fever, a bacterial infection that can prove to be life-threatening if not treated properly, the NIH said Pakistan was among countries with the highest burden of typhoid fever due to a lack of safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene practices. 

The statement stressed the importance of following hygiene practices, using clean water and avoiding street food. The disease has been reported from various parts of the country since 2016, especially during the monsoon and summer seasons, the health advisory said.


Pakistan court reserves verdict on pleas against ruling Imran Khan, wife violated marriage law

Updated 23 May 2024
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Pakistan court reserves verdict on pleas against ruling Imran Khan, wife violated marriage law

  • Khan, wife Bushra sentenced to seven years in prison in February by court that ruled their 2018 marriage illegal 
  • Bushra is currently serving out two prison sentences at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail where Khan is also incarcerated

ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court in Islamabad on Thursday reserved its verdict on appeals challenging seven-year jail sentences each for former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Khan for violating the country’s marriage law. 

Khan and his wife were sentenced to seven years in prison and fined in February by a court that ruled their 2018 marriage broke the law. Bushra was accused of not completing the waiting period mandated by Islam, called “Iddat,” after divorcing her previous husband and marrying Khan.

The Khans signed their marriage contract, or “Nikkah,” in January 2018 in a secret ceremony seven months before the former cricket superstar became prime minister for the first time. There was controversy over whether they had wed before the Iddat period was complete. After initial denials of the marriage, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf confirmed it weeks later.

The Khans both deny wrongdoing.

“The court will announce the judgment on May 29 (Wednesday),” Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper reported. Other Pakistani media also widely reported that the judgment would be announced next week. 

Bushra is currently serving out two prison sentences at Adiala Jail where Khan is also incarcerated. In January, both were sentenced to 14 years in prison in a case that relates to accusations they undervalued gifts from a state repository and gained profits from selling them while Khan was prime minister from 2018-22. 

CASES

Khan was first jailed after being handed a three-year prison sentence in August 2023 by the Election Commission for not declaring assets earned from selling gifts worth more than 140 million rupees ($501,000) in state possession and received during his premiership. In January, Khan and Bushra were handed 14-year jail terms following a separate investigation by the country’s top anti-graft body, or NAB, into the same charges involving state gifts. 

An anti-graft court in Islamabad also handed Khan a 10-year jail term in January for revealing state secrets, a week before national elections on Feb. 8. The ruling on his marriage to Bushra and a seven-year sentence each for both also came ahead of the polls.

Khan has also been indicted under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law in connection with violence against the military that erupted following his brief arrest related to a land graft case on May 9. A section of Pakistan’s 1997 anti-terrorism act prescribes the death penalty as maximum punishment. Khan has denied the charges under the anti-terrorism law, saying he was in detention when the violence took place. 

Khan’s convictions, which mean he is banned from holding public office, ruled the 71-year-old out of the February general elections. Arguably Pakistan’s most popular politician, Khan says all cases against him are motivated to keep him out of politics.

SPIRITUAL LEADER

Bushra’s ex-husband, Khawar Maneka, to whom she was married for about 30 years, brought a criminal complaint against the Khans. 

Khan has often called Bushra his spiritual leader. She is known for her devotion to Sufism, a mystical form of Islam.

Born Bushra Riaz Watto, she changed her name to Khan after her marriage. Her husband and followers commonly refer to her as Bushra Bibi or Bushra Begum, titles that denote respect in Urdu.

Khan’s two previous marriages — to Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of tycoon James Goldsmith, and television journalist Reham Nayyar Khan — ended in divorce.


Doctors treat hundreds of victims of heatstroke in Pakistan after heat wave hits the country

Updated 23 May 2024
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Doctors treat hundreds of victims of heatstroke in Pakistan after heat wave hits the country

  • Authorities want people to stay indoors and avoid travel, though laborers say they don’t have a choice
  • State-run ambulances are now carrying bottled water, ice to provide emergency heatstroke treatment

ISLAMABAD: Doctors treated hundreds of victims of heatstroke at hospitals across Pakistan on Thursday after an intense heat wave sent temperatures above normal levels due to climate change, officials said.
Temperatures soared as high as 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) the previous day in Mohenjo Daro. The city, known for its archaeological sites, is in southern Sindh province, which was badly hit by climate-induced monsoon rains and devastating floods in 2022. The heat wave is forecast to continue for at least a week.
Authorities have urged people to stay indoors, hydrate and avoid unnecessary travel. But laborers say they don’t have a choice because they need to work to feed their families.
“Pakistan is the fifth most vulnerable country to the impact of climate change. We have witnessed above normal rains, floods,” Rubina Khursheed Alam, the prime minister’s coordinator on climate, said at a news conference in the capital, Islamabad.
Doctors say they treated hundreds of patients in the eastern city of Lahore, while scores of people were brought to hospitals in Hyderabad, Larkana and Jacobabad districts in the southern Sindh province.
“The situation has been getting worse since yesterday, when people affected by heat started coming to hospitals in the Punjab province,” said Ghulam Farid, a senior health official. Pakistan has set up emergency response centers at hospitals to treat patients affected by the heat.
The state-run ambulance service is now carrying bottled water and ice to provide emergency treatment to victims of the heat, health officials said.
Heatstroke is a serious illness that occurs when one’s body temperature rises too quickly, potentially causing some to fall unconscious. Severe heatstroke can cause disability or death.
This year, Pakistan recorded its wettest April since 1961, with more than double the usual monthly rainfall. Last month’s heavy rains killed scores of people while destroyed property and farmland.
Daytime temperatures are soaring 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit) above May’s temperatures, raising fears of flooding in the northwest because of glacial melting.
The 2022 floods caused extensive damage in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, as 1,739 people were killed across the country.
Currently, Pakistan’s southwest and northwestern areas are also experiencing the heat wave.
Authorities have shut schools for a week in Punjab. In the city of Lahore people were seen swimming in the roadside canals. Pakistan says despite contributing less than 1 percent to carbon emissions, it is bearing the brunt of global climate disasters.
Alam said recent erratic changes in weather patterns were the result of man-made climate change.


US, Sindh province launch $9 million initiative to combat tuberculosis in Pakistan 

Updated 23 May 2024
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US, Sindh province launch $9 million initiative to combat tuberculosis in Pakistan 

  • TB cases have risen in Pakistan by 42.5 percent in last three years with 47,000 people dying of the illness in 2023
  • TB remains world’s leading infectious disease killer, Pakistan ranks fifth among high TB burden countries

KARACHI: US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome and Sindh Minister for Health and Population Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho launched a collaborative initiative on Thursday aimed at addressing tuberculosis (TB), a significant health challenge in Pakistan. 
TB cases have risen in Pakistan by 42.5 percent in the last three years with 47,000 people dying of the illness in 2023, according to official data, undermining the government’s plans to stamp out the disease by 2035 in the face of inadequate resources for screening and treatment.
Despite being preventable and treatable, TB remains the world’s leading infectious disease killer, sickening 10.6 million people and taking 1.3 million lives annually. Pakistan ranks fifth among high TB burden countries. 
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) leads the US government’s global TB efforts, working with partners around the world including Pakistan, prioritizing local community involvement and recognizing its critical role in ensuring sustainable and effective outcomes.
“Funded by USAID, the newly launched program, named the Tuberculosis Local Organization Network (TB-LON), is an investment of $9 million over five years,” the US embassy said in a statement.
“Its primary goal is to provide expert guidance and resources for Pakistan to effectively tackle TB. Through direct engagement with affected communities and individuals, the program will tailor solutions to meet specific needs. TB-LON will treat more TB cases in Sindh and significantly reduce the number of people affected by the disease.”
“Tuberculosis is not just a disease affecting millions in Pakistan; it’s an illness that disrupts lives, livelihoods, and communities,” Blome was quoted in the statemet as saying. 
“Pakistan ranks fifth among countries with the highest rate of TB, but I am proud to say, we are changing that with this groundbreaking $9 million initiative that will provide expert guidance and resources to help eradicate TB, exemplifying our constant commitment to the resilient people of Sindh.”
 Dr. Pechuho expressed appreciation for the ongoing support from the US government and reaffirmed the Sindh government’s commitment to enhancing health care services. 
“We are confident that our joint efforts in addressing critical health challenges will bring a positive change in the lives of people of Sindh,” she added, emphasizing the importance of joint efforts in addressing critical health challenges.
In Pakistan, TB cases registered an increase from 272,990 in 2020 to 474,981 in 2023, with a treatment success rate of more than 90 percent, according to official data. The disease killed 48,000 people in 2021, 46,000 in 2022, and 47,000 people in 2023. Currently, there are a total of 608,000 TB cases registered with the National TB Control Program, according to data collected by Arab News in April this year.