Will take ‘unanimous decision’ on new PM, opposition says after filing no-confidence motion against Khan

Pakistani opposition leaders, Shahbaz Sharif (L), Asif Ali Zardari (C), former President and leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, and Fazlur Rehman (R), head of JUI-F, gesture during a press conference in Islamabad on March 8, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 08 March 2022

Will take ‘unanimous decision’ on new PM, opposition says after filing no-confidence motion against Khan

  • PM Imran Khan’s loyalists call him the ‘only leader,’ vow to defend themselves ‘constitutionally’
  • National Assembly rules say a simple majority, or 172 votes, is required to remove the premier

ISLAMABAD: A top Pakistani opposition leader said on Tuesday opposition parties would take a "unanimous decision" about their nominee for the new prime minister, hours after filing a no-confidence motion against PM Imran Khan that would see the fall of his government if the request gets a majority vote in parliament. 
Last month, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of opposition parties, announced it planned to topple the Khan government through a vote of no confidence in parliament. 
Video footage released by the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-) party showed a group of opposition leaders at the National Assembly Secretariat, submitting the motion on Tuesday. 
“Congrats,” opposition lawmaker Shazia Marri said in the video footage to her colleagues as an official signed and stamped the document. 
“We have submitted the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly Secretariat and their days are numbered now,” PDM chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman said at a joint press conference in Islamabad, alongside PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. 
“We want to make it clear that a unanimous decision will be taken about the nominee of our prime minister. Consider it a secret document for now.” 
Rehman accused the government of ruining the economy and failing to fulfill election promises. He said opposition parties were united in the “national interest” and confident of the success of their no-confidence move. 
“We have no enmity with any institution, but we have to take the country forward,” the PDM chief said, criticizing the government for its “flawed” foreign policy. 
Members of the ruling party have said PM Khan is the only leader in the country and they will “constitutionally” defend themselves in the face of the no-confidence motion. 
“Bringing a no-confidence motion is their constitutional right. We will fight them constitutionally, legally and politically and defeat them, God willing,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a statement. 
Qureshi said Khan was an elected prime minister who was given a huge mandate by the people of Pakistan in 2018. “I am sure all members of the party will make the right decision and will support Imran Khan in their decisions,” he added. 
Information minister and close Khan aide Chaudhry Fawad Hussain tweeted: “There is only one leader in this country, Imran Khan.” 

Several other members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf expressed their support for PM Khan on Twitter using #IstandwithImranKhan. 
Speaking at the opposition’s presser, Zardari said all opposition parties had agreed that dislodging the government was “a matter of now or never.” 
“We consulted each other and agreed that no single party can steer Pakistan out of this crisis,” the PPP co-chairman said. 
“We will bring more than 172 votes as many friends within their [PTI] party are not happy. They all have to go back to their constituencies and what answer will they give [to their voters].” 
Sharif said there was no such example of destruction in the country’s history what this government had done. “People will not forgive us if this [no-confidence motion] was delayed further.” 
The developments came at a time when thousands of opposition supporters rallied to the federal capital, Islamabad, to demand the premier step down. 
Police in Islamabad beefed up security by deploying additional uniformed personnel on Tuesday ahead of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) long march which is expected to reach the federal capital later today. 
The PPP started marching toward Islamabad from Karachi last week to mount political pressure on Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign while demanding fresh elections in the country. 
As many as 10,000 personnel belonging to the Punjab police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary have been deployed in the capital along with the Islamabad Police to ensure security of the participants of the march. 
“The main area designated for the public gathering has been cordoned off and security has been beefed up in the capital,” Awais Ahmed, deputy inspector general police, said while talking to the media. 
He said a separate parking area was also designated for the participants of the rally while police were carrying out sweep and search operations in the capital to avoid any untoward incident. 
“Fool-proof security arrangements have been put in place in Islamabad for the rally,” inspector Naeem Iqbal, a spokesperson for the Islamabad Police, told Arab News. 
He said a drone unit for surveillance was also deployed in the city along with snipers and special security staff near important government buildings. 
Iqbal said the participants of the rally were scheduled to disperse peacefully by 8pm, though he added they could extend the program until 11pm. 
The traffic police in Islamabad also placed diversions on different roads while designating alternate routes for general public. 
According to an official handout, Pakistan’s interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed visited a control room to review the security situation in the federal capital. 
He expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements made for the march and directed officials to watch out for any miscreants. 
“It is the democratic right of people to arrange demonstrations and protest marches,” he said. “However, nobody will be allowed to take law into their hands.” 


Pakistan climbing season reaches new heights as 1,400 foreign mountaineers arrive

Updated 6 sec ago

Pakistan climbing season reaches new heights as 1,400 foreign mountaineers arrive

  • The country is home to five of the world’s 14 mountains higher than 8,000 meters
  • 57 expeditions planned for 23 Pakistan peaks this season, with 370 climbers climbing K2

SKARDU: Pakistan is enjoying a bumper climbing season with around 1,400 foreign mountaineers bidding to scale its lofty peaks — including hundreds on the 8,611-meter (28,251-feet) K2, the world’s second-highest.

The country is home to five of the world’s 14 mountains higher than 8,000 meters, and climbing them all is considered the ultimate achievement of any mountaineer.
“It is a record number,” Raja Nasir Ali Khan, tourism minister of Gilgit-Baltistan region, told AFP about the number of foreign climbers this year.
Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, told AFP there were 57 expeditions planned for 23 Pakistan peaks this season — with 370 climbers having a crack at K2, known as “the savage mountain.”
Besides being far more technically difficult to climb than Everest, weather conditions are notoriously fickle on K2, which has only being scaled by 425 people since 1954.
More than 6,000 people have climbed Everest since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first reached the top in 1953 — some of them multiple times.
Haidri said climbers this year include 90 women — including at least two Pakistanis aiming to become the country’s first to scale K2.
Russian Oxana Morneva is leading a team on the mountain, having failed in her own attempt in 2012 when she was forced back after injuring her knee.
“My rope was broken by falling rocks,” she told AFP.
She said she had no apprehension about returning.
“When we go to the mountain we have to be peaceful inside, and we have to know what we are doing,” she added.
Around 200 climbers will attempt to scale the 8,051-meter Broad Peak, while similar numbers will try Gasherbrum-I (8,080 meters) and Gasherbrum-II (8,035 meters).
A 36-year-old Norwegian climber, Kristin Harila, is also aiming to reach the world’s 14 highest mountain summits in record time.
Having already climbed seven peaks of over 8,000 meters, Harila hopes to match, if not beat, Nepali adventurer Nirmal Purja’s ambitious six months and six days record.
The summer climbing season that started in early June lasts until late August.

Pakistan advises holiday-goers to follow COVID-19 guidelines over Eid festival 

Updated 4 min 59 sec ago

Pakistan advises holiday-goers to follow COVID-19 guidelines over Eid festival 

  • Pakistan has had very few COVID-19 cases in recent months and did away with almost all precautions
  • In 24 hours, Pakistan recorded 805 positive cases, fresh COVID guidelines issued for five-day Eid holiday 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Institute of Health (NIH) on Wednesday urged people to strictly follow COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) while holidaying during the Eid Al-Adha festival that starts on Sunday. 

Pakistan has had very few COVID-19 cases in recent months and did away with almost all precautions.

But the South Asian nation has seen a spike in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, with the national positivity ratio rising to 4.69 percent in the last 24 hours, as 805 tests turned out positive. Over 168 patients are currently in critical care at hospitals across the country.

The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), Pakistan’s federal pandemic response body, also said the COVID-19 positivity rate had reached 17.46 percent in Abbottabad, a main tourist destination in the northwest of the country.

“Strictly adhere to coronavirus safety precautions during your tourist trips,” the NIH said in a statement. “The risk of spreading the coronavirus increases at crowded places, so make sure to use a face mask and [use] hand sanitizer.”

The body also advised people to maintain social distance and ensure that all those traveling to tourist destinations were fully vaccinated and had gotten booster doses

On Tuesday, the government issued fresh guidelines for Eid Al-Adha. 

“Eid UI Adha prayers should be organized in open spaces under stringent COVID protocols. In case of any compulsion to offer the prayers inside mosques, then all windows and doors should be kept open for ventilation / to minimize the chances of disease spread,” the NCOC said in a statement.

The body said up to three Eid prayers should be organized at a single venue with staggered timings to allow maximum people to offer prayers with COVID-19 protocols in place.

“All ulemas leading Eid prayers should be sensitised to keep sermons ... short so that people remain present in the prayer venues for a brief duration,” the guidelines said. “Efforts should be made to discourage sick, elderly and young children from attending Eid prayers.”

People without face masks should not be allowed to enter prayer venues, the NCOC said, adding that prayer venues should have multiple entry and exit points and venue organizers should ensure the availability of hand sanitisers.

“It should be mandatory for all coming for prayers to use sanitisers before entering the venue,” the guidelines said.

“To ensure social distancing protocols, venue organizers to ensure prominent marking (6 feet apart) to allow sufficient space/distance between individuals. People should be encouraged to perform abulution at home before coming for the prayers and also bring their own prayer mats to the venue. Efforts should be made to sensitise people to refrain from embracing and handshaking after the prayer to avoid chances of disease transmission. There should not be any gathering at the prayer venue before the prayer and people should be asked to disperse immediately after the prayer.”

The NCOC said efforts would be made to promote and encourage central and collective sacrifices through various public, private and community organizations, while ensuring adherence to the COVID-19 protocols of mask-wearing, social distancing and avoidance of crowds.

77 people killed in monsoon rains in Pakistan since June 14 — climate minister

Updated 06 July 2022

77 people killed in monsoon rains in Pakistan since June 14 — climate minister

  • Half the deaths in Balochistan province where 39 people have died
  • In 2010, worst floods in memory affected 20 million people in Pakistan 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani minister for climate change Sherry Rehman said on Wednesday that 77 people had died since June 14 as monsoon rains wreaked havoc in the country, with almost half the deaths taking place in the impoverished southwestern province of Balochistan.

The Pakistan Metrological office had predicted heavy rainfall and thunderstorms from June 30 to July 5 and also issued a weather warning for urban floods in some regions.

“77 people have died since June 14 in monsoon rains,” Rehman said at a press conference, adding that the monsoon rain pattern was moving from the north of the country to the southern provinces of Balochistan and Sindh.

Children wade through a flooded area after a monsoon rainfall in Quetta, Pakistan on July 5, 2022. (AFP)

“Most of deaths were in Balochistan till morning [Wednesday]. We got the figure of 39 deaths in the province,” she said, adding that children and women were among those who had lost their lives. Media reported that at least 20 of the Balochistan deaths had occurred in the last 24 hours of rain.

Rehman said Pakistan had received “above normal” levels of rains during June and July.

The district administration of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, established a flood emergency control room to monitor and address emergencies in the city and its adjacent areas.

“Rescue & relief operation of @PDMABalochistan & Quetta district administration is underway, food items & other necessities have been distributed among rain affected families in Bakra Mandi Western By Pass & other areas,” assistant commissioner in the Sariyab area of Quetta said.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) urged provincial authorities to take preventive measures to avoid loss of life and damage to property.

The rains have also affected telecommunication and power supply in some parts of the country.

In 2010, the worst floods in memory affected 20 million people in Pakistan, with damage to infrastructure running into billions of dollars and huge swaths of crops destroyed as one fifth of the country was inundated.

Pakistan sets up parliamentary committee to oversee talks with local Taliban, ensure process constitutional

Updated 06 July 2022

Pakistan sets up parliamentary committee to oversee talks with local Taliban, ensure process constitutional

  • PM Shehbaz Sharif chairs in-camera meeting attended by over 100 lawmakers
  • Use of force sole prerogative of state, says parliamentary committee

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday set up a parliamentary committee to oversee talks with the local Taliban and to ensure the process does not exceed the limits of the constitution, as Islamabad looks to end years of conflict with militants through negotiations. 

Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) on Tuesday gave its formal approval to the government to conduct peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). 

The TTP is a separate group from the Afghan Taliban but shares common roots with them. The militant outfit has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan since 2007, seeking to impose its own brand of Islamic law via force. 

However, on June 4, the TTP 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. 

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired an in-camera meeting in Islamabad attended by over 100 lawmakers and officials to deliberate on peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.  

“The Parliamentary Committee on National Security formally approved the process of negotiations and approved the formation of a ‘Parliamentary Oversight Committee’ which would be responsible for overseeing the process within the constitutional limits,” an official statement said. 

“The session also endorses the importance of the ‘National Grand Reconciliation Dialogue’ and said the [Parliamentary Committee on National Security] meeting was the first step in that direction,” the statement added. 

It added that with the support of the Afghan government and led by Pakistan’s civilian and military officials, the government is negotiating with the outlawed TTP within the constitution’s framework to ensure peace in the country and the region. 

“The meeting stated that the final outcome would be implemented after the completion of the procedure within the ambit of the Constitution of Pakistan and the approval of the Government of Pakistan,” the statement said. 

Participants of the meeting reiterated that Pakistan has made remarkable achievements against terrorism and extremism which have been recognized globally. 

 “The meeting reiterated that under the Constitution of Pakistan, the use of force is the sole prerogative of the state,” the statement said. 

Pakistan military leadership held an on talks with the TTP and on national security issues. 

 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.

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 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 the country’s troops to pull out of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, release all TTP fighters in government custody and revoke all cases against them. 

Pakistani mountaineers missing overnight on Nanga Parbat spotted descending to camp

Updated 06 July 2022

Pakistani mountaineers missing overnight on Nanga Parbat spotted descending to camp

  • 20-year-old Shehroze Kashif became youngest person ever to summit Nanga Parbat this week
  • Separately, Pakistani Imran Shamshali from Hunza was killed during an expedition on Gasherbrum

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani mountaineers Shehroze Kashif and Fazal Ali, who were reported missing overnight on Pakistan’s Nanga Parbat, were spotted descending to a camp on the mountain on Wednesday, according to Kashif’s social media accounts.  

Kashif, 20, who hails from Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, became the youngest Pakistani in May 2021 to scale Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Earlier this month, he became the youngest person to summit Mount Kanchenjunga in Nepal, and on Tuesday, yesterday, the youngest person to summit Nanga Parbat. 

Ali, who hails from Shimshal of Hunza district of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan’s north, was also reported missing with Kashif after getting stuck in a blizzard, according to the Alpine Club of Pakistan. 

“Shehroze Kashif and Fazal Ali are seen descending from Camp 4 to Camp 3 on Nanga Parbat 8,126m,” Kashif’s Twitter account said, adding that the two had spent the night in the open to wait for the weather to clear before beginning their descent. 

“The duo is showing great resilience and willpower to manage things themselves in death zone and now approaching Camp 3 soon,” read the post. 

In a video statement on Tuesday, Kashif’s father appealed to Pakistan’s army chief to launch a rescue operation to retrieve his son, saying Nepalese climbers were ready to launch an operation if they were provided helicopters.  

“I request the army chief: what are we waiting for? What are we waiting for,” he asked, pointing out that his son had paid tribute to the soldiers of the Pakistan Army after summiting the world’s third-highest mountain peak, Kangchenjunga, in Nepal. 

“He has achieved a lot, he has made Pakistan proud. Please launch a [rescue] operation.” 

Separately, the Alpine Club of Pakistan confirmed that Imran Shamshali, a Pakistani mountaineer from Hunza, was killed during an expedition on the Gasherbrum, a remote group of peaks in Pakistan’s northeast area, while another climber, Muhammad Sharif, had been missing since Tuesday.