ISLAMABAD: As Prime Minister Imran Khan prepares to depart on a “game changing” trip to Russia amid Moscow reportedly preparing for a full-scale offensive in Ukraine that Western governments have warned about for weeks, a minister in Ukraine said on Monday she had met Pakistan’s envoy to the country who had expressed support for its “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Khan’s visit to Moscow comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent on Monday. Putin's announcement drew US and European condemnation and vows of new sanctions.
On Monday, Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Emine Dzheppar tweeted that she had held a meeting with Pakistan’s Ambassador, retired Major Gen Noel Israel Khokhar, who had expressed support for her country’s sovereignty.
“Grateful to Pakistan for supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Dzheppar said on Twitter.
Khan will be in Moscow on February 23-24 on the invitation of President Vladimir Putin. He will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including members of his cabinet.
“The bilateral summit will be the highlight of the visit,” the Pakistani foreign office said.
Khan will be the first Pakistani prime minister to visit Russia in 23 years.
There are reports Pakistan's efforts to cosy up with Russia are in some part due to a push from longtime ally China, which enjoys a quasi-alliance with Moscow. Beijing has hinted recently it would support Russia diplomatically and perhaps economically if it invades Ukraine, worsening Beijing's already strained relations with the West, but would stop short of providing military support.
US President Joe Biden said last Friday Putin had decided to invade Ukraine within days, a claim Russia denies.
China's foreign ministry has repeatedly blamed the United States for "spreading false information" and creating tensions, urging it to respect and address Russia's demands for security guarantees.
In a show of solidarity, Putin visited Beijing for the Feb. 4 opening ceremony of the Olympics, declaring with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping a deepening "no limits" strategic partnership. Chinese state media said the two countries stood "shoulder to shoulder in upholding justice in the world.”
A Russian invasion into Ukraine would test China's resolve to put those supportive words into action, especially given China's oft-stated foreign policy principle of non-interference.
KARACHI: Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Sunday arrested a man after finding out his passport contained a fake visa for Spain, the agency confirmed, adding that the passenger had obtained the travel documents from an Iranian agent.
The FIA said it arrested Waheed Ahmad, a Pakistani national, from the Jinnah International Airport in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi. Waheed, according to the FIA, arrived from Iran to Karachi on a Pakistani passport.
"According to initial investigation, the passenger obtained the fake visa from an Iranian agent," the FIA spokesperson said in a statement. "The passenger paid Rs500,000 to get the fake visa."
The FIA said Ahmad was transferred to Anti-Human Trafficking Circle, Karachi, for further legal action. It added that the case was being investigated further.
Last month, Pakistani authorities detained an Iranian national traveling to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on fake documents.
Last year in October, at least three Iranian nationals were arrested at the Karachi airport after failed attempts to travel to the UAE and Qatar on fake travel documents.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif admitted on Sunday that Pakistan was facing “too many financial challenges" with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission “scrutinizing each and every book” to ascertain whether the country has met its conditions to revive a stalled $7 billion loan program or not.
Pakistan, in the throes of a dire economic crisis, currently has foreign exchange reserves below $3 billion, barely enough to cover eighteen days of imports. The South Asian country is struggling to bring down decades-high inflation and strengthen its national currency, which has depreciated to a historic low against the US dollar in recent days.
To mitigate the situation and save the country from default, Pakistan is desperately looking for external financing. Islamabad is holding talks with the IMF, whose mission arrived in the country last month, to discuss the resumption of a stalled loan program.
The premier, while addressing a special session of Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s Legislative Assembly to mark the “Kashmir Solidarity Day”, said the global money lender is critically analyzing every aspect of the country’s economic performance to release the much-awaited loan.
“We are facing too many financial challenges at the moment,” he said. “The IMF’s mission, which is in Islamabad right now, is scrutinizing each and every book, whether it is related to finance, petroleum, commerce, or the power sector.”
The premier added that the lender was looking at “each and everything” which included all subsidies, to make sure its conditions are being met.
He said Pakistan has to survive but begging before other nations or financial bodies was not the way to go about it.
“This matter [seeking IMF’s help] has been going on for 75 years, but we have to draw a line at some point to stop this from happening,” he said. Sharif called for unity to tackle national challenges.
“It can only happen if the entire nation unites to fight against inflation and depend on their own resources,” he continued, acknowledging that achieving such goals was easier said than done.
PM Sharif also stressed unity among all political parties so that the country’s economy could be strengthened, and it could continue to be in a position to support the people of Kashmir in attaining their right to self-determination.
India and Pakistan have fought several wars over Kashmir since their independence in August 1947. The two countries claim the region in full but control only parts of it. Relations between the two countries had always remained tumultuous, but they worsened in 2019 after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi abrogated Kashmir’s special status.
On February 5 each year, Pakistan expresses solidarity with the people of Kashmir. Islamabad has long accused India of committing atrocities against the people of the disputed valley and denying them the right to self-determination. New Delhi rejects the allegations and accuses Islamabad of funding militants in the region.
“As the prime minister of allied parties and representative of 220 million Pakistani people, I fully assured [our] Kashmiri brethren that we would continue our support for their due right of self-determination,” he said. “But first, we have to forge unity among our ranks, besides, bringing economic and political stability."
“[For that] politicians should strive to make Pakistan economically stronger.”
QUETTA: Thousands of fans cheered at the Nawab Akbar Bugti Cricket Stadium on Sunday, as Peshawar Zalmi locked horns with the Quetta Gladiators in an exhibition match in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, marking the return of cricket to the city after 26 years.
Amid tight security measures, thousands of cricket lovers, including women and children from across Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province, thronged the stadium in the provincial capital of Quetta to catch the action live as the Gladiators faced Zalmi.
Cricket has largely stayed away from Quetta owing to security fears as the city as the impoverished province has seen plenty of attacks and sectarian violence by separatist groups and militants. The last time the city saw a cricket match was in the same stadium 26 years ago, when Pakistan beat Zimbabwe in an ODI by three wickets on October 30, 1996.
Spectators were particularly thrilled to see Zalmi skipper Babar Azam and Gladiators' captain Sarfaraz Ahmed lead the two teams onto the ground. Excited fans could hardly keep from screaming throughout the four-hour match.
Other cricket stars who performed in front of a live audience were Shahid Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Umar Akmal, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Iftikhar Ahmed, and others.
Muhammad Saddam, 25, said he traveled to Quetta from Dalbandin, a remote town near the Pakistan-Iran border, to catch a glimpse of the stars. Saddam said he waited for over two hours outside the stadium in a long line of spectators to witness the action.
“We are very happy that our national players have come to play the PSL exhibition match in Quetta,” he told Arab News.
Jahangir Khan, a cricket lover from Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said he traveled to Quetta to support Peshawar Zalmi and watch Afridi, a former Pakistan captain, play.
“I came to Quetta on January 27 to support my team here. I didn’t receive the ticket [initially] but fortunately, got one yesterday for the exhibition match”, he enthused.
The provincial sports department also arranged food stalls outside the stadium, for the public to savor snacks while they enjoyed the game. One of the stalls sold the traditional Balochi Sajji as the action continued.
Azam and Afridi, both superstars in their own right, couldn't stand till the end to see their team defeat the Gladiators on their home turf. With four runs needed at the last ball after a special half-century from Muhammad Haris (53 off 35), the crowd sighed with relief as Quetta pulled off a three-run victory.
Chief Minister of Balochistan Mir Abdul Qudus Bizenjo appreciated both franchises and the chair of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) managing committee, Najam Sethi, for bringing the action to the cricket-starved city.
Bizenjo praised security forces during the prize distribution ceremony for maintaining law and order during the match. He said the “successful conclusion of Pakistan’s Super League (PSL)’s exhibition match in Quetta was a loud and clear message for our enemies”.
“This event has proven that peace has been restored in Balochistan and people will not tolerate terrorists [that are] spoiling law and order in the province,” he said.
ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistani president and army chief, General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, passed away in Dubai, close family associates confirmed, after years of self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates.
Musharraf, 79, was under treatment at a Dubai hospital for amyloidosis, a rare disease, a former close aide of the military ruler and chairman of his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) party, Dr. Amjad Chaudhry, said.
Chaudhry said the former president had been "seriously sick since 2018."
"When I last talked to his family about a week back, he was serious and hospitalized,” he added.
“I am in contact with the family for the repatriation of the mortal remains of the former president,” another close aide of the former general, Major General (retired) Rashid Qureshi, told Arab News.
The Pakistani army, navy, and air chiefs and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee (CJCSC) condoled Musharraf's death in a statement to the press.
“CJCSC & Services Chiefs express heartfelt condolences on the sad demise of General Pervez Musharraf,” the statement said. “May Allah bless the departed soul and give strength to the bereaved family.”
Musharraf, the son of a career diplomat, was born in New Delhi in 1943 and migrated to the newly independent Pakistan with his family in 1947. Musharraf joined the army in 1964 and graduated from the Army Command and Staff College in Quetta. He also attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in London and has fought in Pakistan’s 1965 and 1971 wneighboringneighbouring India.
After holding a number of appointments in the army's artillery, infantry, and commando units, Musharraf was appointed army chief by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1998 - a move he would later come to regret when the military ruler ousted Sharif in a bloodless military coup in 1999. Musharraf then served as Pakistan's president from 2001 to 2008.
Following the US invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks in 2001, Washington sought Pakistan's support in the 'War on Terror,' and Musharraf became a close ally of the then US administration of George Bush. He also won mass appeal in the West through his calls for Muslims to adopt a lifestyle of “enlightened moderation.” He also embraced liberal economic policies during his rule that impressed business leaders, brought in foreign investment and led to annual economic growth of as much as 7.5 percent.
Musharraf ruled as army chief until 2007 when he quit, trading the military post for a second five-year term as president.
He stepped down as president also in 2008 over fears of being impeached by Pakistan’s then ruling coalition. He subsequently left the country but returned in 2013 with the hope of regaining power as a civilian at the ballot box. However, he encountered a slew of criminal charges, and within a year, was barred for life from running for public office.
In 2016, after a travel ban was lifted, Musharraf left for Dubai to seek medical treatment and has since remained there. In 2019, a special court indicted him on treason charges in absentia, which he denied, and eventually sentenced him to death, though the ruling was later overturned by a higher court.
During his years in power, Musharraf saw many moments of tumult.
In 2006, a popular tribal leader from the southwestern province Balochistan was killed in military action ordered by Musharraf, unleashing an armed insurgency that goes on to date. In 2007, he ordered troops to storm a mosque in Islamabad whose clerics and students were calling for the imposition of Shariah law. The siege led to the birth of an indigenous Taliban movement, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has since led an insurgency against the government in Islamabad and killed tens of thousands in brazen assaults on security, government and civilian targets.
In 2007, Musharraf demanded the resignation of then chief justice of the Supreme Court, unleashing a mass protest movement that massively dented his popularity and started calls for him to step down.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who is the brother of three-time former PM Nawaz whom Musharraf ousted in 1999, condoled over the military ruler's death and "sent prayers for forgiveness of the deceased and patience for the family,” the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement.
Among others who condoled were Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, Pakistan Peoples Party Leader Faisal Karim Kundi, and a senior leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Chaudhary Fawad Hussain, who was for years in Musharraf's party.
“I have a long association with him and he always considered me his family member,” he said in a video statement. “Many called him a military dictator but Pakistan has never seen better democracy than his tenure.”
“He led Pakistan in very difficult circumstances and made it a pluralist society. He was a very big person, his friends proved to be small.”
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has died in Dubai after a prolonged illness, the Pakistani military said on Sunday.
Musharraf seized power in a 1999 bloodless coup, ruling as "chief executive" when the 9/11 attacks on the United States took place, before becoming president in 2001.
He was the chief regional ally of the United States during its invasion of the neighbouring Afghanistan, but resigned in 2008 and was subsequently forced into exile after a backlash over his constitutional overreach.
Here are some pictures depicting the life of the former Pakistani military ruler: