Pakistan dispatches humanitarian aid to Ukraine as Russian forces press in on Kyiv

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi a ceremony to dispatch relief goods to Ukraine at Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on March 15, 2022. (@PakinUkraine/Twitter)
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Updated 15 March 2022

Pakistan dispatches humanitarian aid to Ukraine as Russian forces press in on Kyiv

  • More than three million have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion 
  • PM Imran Khan’s cabinet on Monday approved $335,000 aid for Eastern European country 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday dispatched a consignment of humanitarian aid to Ukraine as Russian forces continued to press in on Kyiv, amid one of the worst refugee crises in Europe since the World War II. 

The development came a day after Pakistan’s federal cabinet approved the allocation of about Rs60 million ($335,000) for Ukraine as an expression of solidarity with the Ukrainian people. 

Islamabad has found itself in a precarious situation since the beginning of Russian invasion as President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to attack Ukraine the day Prime Minister Imran Khan was visiting Moscow. 

Pakistan is also one of the few countries in the world that has not condemned Russia for invading Ukraine. 

The relief goods were dispatched during a ceremony, attended by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, at the Nur Khan air base in Rawalpindi. 

“I am here to express solidarity with the people of Ukraine. I am here to deliver humanitarian assistance package for the people of Ukraine,” Qureshi said at the ceremony. 

“We wish the negotiations that are taking place prove to be fruitful and there is cessation of hostilities as soon as possible.” 




The photograph shows the relief goods to be dispatched to Ukraine at Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on March 15, 2022. (@PakinUkraine/Twitter)

Through this gesture, he said, Pakistan wanted to tell the Ukrainian people that “we have not forgotten you, we understand that you are in a difficult situation and this humble contribution is a reflection of our concern.”   

On Tuesday, Russian forces pressed in on Kyiv as a 35-hour curfew began after strikes on residences killed four people in the Ukrainian capital, despite a fresh round of talks aimed at halting the war. 

The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia visited Kyiv in an act of solidarity, while the White House announced US President Joe Biden would attend summits of the EU and NATO next week. 

But tensions were mounting as Russia broadened its assault across Ukraine with a huge strike on an airport. Kyiv's mayor Vitali Klitschko said the curfew was in response to an impending "dangerous moment". 

Nearly three weeks into Russia's invasion of its pro-Western neighbour, more than three million have fled to neighbouring countries, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Canadian lawmakers in a virtual address. 

Ninety-seven Ukrainian children have died, he added. 


‘Mob attack’ on film set in Pakistan takes mainstream and social media by storm

Updated 1 min 35 sec ago

‘Mob attack’ on film set in Pakistan takes mainstream and social media by storm

  • Incident occurred on Monday evening during shoot of ‘Sajin Mahel,’ directed by Nabeel Qureshi and starring Hira Mani
  • Mani told Arab News armed men entered set in a “pre-planned” attack and beat up crew after director had a spat with neighbors

KARACHI: A “mob” attacked a film set this week while some of Pakistan’s most popular actors were shooting for an upcoming movie in Karachi, the actor in the leading role, Hira Mani, said, while a police report of the incident said five crew members were injured. 

The incident, which has taken Pakistani mainstream and social media by storm, occurred on Monday evening during the shoot of upcoming film ‘Sajin Mahel,’ directed by Nabeel Qureshi, and starring Mani, her husband Salman Saquib (popularly known as Mani) and Gul-e-Rana.

Mani said the attack happened after the film director got into a spat with neighbors who complained about noise from the shoot, which was taking place in a rented property in Karachi’s PIB Colony. An “armed mob” forcibly entered the house, she said, describing it as a “pre-planned” attack by people aiming to disrupt the shooting. 

“They manipulated the policemen sitting outside the premises [by telling them] that something inappropriate was taking place inside,” Mani told Arab News. “They were going to burn us, [they were] chanting ‘Allah O Akbar’.”

The attackers, according to Mani, were demanding to speak directly to Qureshi and the top actors, who were locked up for their protection in a room of the house by the owner, a man identified in a police complaint only by his first name, Shakir.

Calls to the police went unanswered, she added:

“They [attackers] had almost reached the cast when the [paramilitary] Rangers arrived and rescued us after almost an hour.”

According to a copy of the first information, or police, report (FIR) seen by Arab News, producer Ali Hussain said up to 50 people, many of them carrying sticks, barged into the house where the shoot was ongoing and beat up its owner, Shakir, who rents the property for film shoots. The attackers also allegedly beat up crew members and injured five, including one who was hit on the head with a pistol. 

The FIR said several pieces of equipment were stolen from the set, including a 2k light, bulbs, C-stands, avenger stand, 10kg jib weight, set pancake and cables and three mobile phones. 

Arab News heard a sound recording of the incident, shared by a member of the cast, in which women could be heard screaming and shouting. The sounds of blows being exchanged is also heard and Mani is frantically yelling to suspects that there were women and children in the house. 

Mani said three people had been arrested since the complaint was filed. She said this was not the first time that violence had ensued at this particular location, recalling a similar incident last year when Pakistani actor and comedian Yasir Hussain was directing the TV series, “Aik Thi Laila” at the spot.

Speaking to Arab News, Hussain complained that while Shakir rented out the property for large sums for Tv and film shoots, he did not take responsibility for controlling crowds.

During the shooting of “Aik Thi Laila” he said, uninvited entrants on the set fought with the producer when they were asked to leave. Over 100 people subsequently entered and attacked the crew, forcing the team to cancel the shoot twice. The actor said he couldn’t complain at the time since he wasn’t the show’s producer. 

“We wanted to wrap the shoot so we didn’t post any [Instagram] stories either,” Hussain said. “This is quite scary and this needs to end.”

Arab News could not reach the owner of the house, Shakir, or police for comment.


Pakistan PM postpones Ankara visit as Turkiye-Syria quake toll tops 8,300

Updated 48 min 6 sec ago

Pakistan PM postpones Ankara visit as Turkiye-Syria quake toll tops 8,300

  • Pakistan has sent relief goods to the two Middle Eastern states on commercial and military airliners
  • As rescue activities continue, time is running out for the thousands who are trapped in the rubble

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday postponed his visit to Ankara after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 southeastern provinces that were hit by a major earthquake that has so far claimed more than 8,300 lives in Syria and Turkiye.

The prime minister called for “tangible and timely material support” for Turkiye a day before while pointing out that Ankara had generously helped Pakistan in the wake of the 2005 earthquake and floods in recent years. He also established a relief fund for quake victims and urged well-off individuals to contribute.

Sharif decided to travel to Turkiye to express solidarity with its people and government while announcing to reschedule a national conference to discuss the security situation in his own country.

“PM visit is postponed due to [the] ongoing relief activities in Turkiye,” federal information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a brief message to the media on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, rescue activities continue in Syria and Turkiye after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake jolted the two countries earlier this week. According to World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, time is running out for the thousands injured and those still feared trapped.

Reports emerging from the two countries say thousands have taken refuge from rains, snow and aftershocks in mosques, schools and bus shelters after losing their apartments and houses.

Some estimates suggest that nearly 23 million people have been affected by the quake which will require significant relief and reconstruction activities in the coming days.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has already sent two planeloads of relief goods to Turkiye and Syria.

The country’s air force also said in a statement on Wednesday it had dispatched tents, blankets and other essential items on two C-130s to Turkiye to help its people.


In latest transport tragedy, 22 people killed in bus-car collision in Pakistan

Updated 56 min 36 sec ago

In latest transport tragedy, 22 people killed in bus-car collision in Pakistan

  • Fatal road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed
  • Bad road infrastructure and use of unfit vehicles are other causes of frequent accidents

PESHAWAR: A speeding bus collided with a car and plunged into a ravine in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 22 passengers and injuring 12 others, police said, the second such deadly accident in less than a week.

The bus was traveling to the garrison city of Rawalpindi from the Ghizer district in the north when the accident happened near Shatial village, 500 kilometers (30 miles) north of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said Dildar Khan, an area police chief.

He said rescuers transferred the dead and injured to a hospital, where some of them were listed in critical condition.

Last Friday, 17 people were killed in a head-on collision between a passenger bus and a speeding truck near a tunnel in the Kohat district in northwest Pakistan. On Jan, 29, another deadly accident happened in southern Pakistan where a bus crashed into a pillar and fell off a bridge, killing 40 people.

Deadly accidents are common in Pakistan due to poor road infrastructure and a disregard for traffic laws.


Security forces kill 12 militants in joint intelligence-based operation in Pakistan’s northwest

Updated 08 February 2023

Security forces kill 12 militants in joint intelligence-based operation in Pakistan’s northwest

  • The militants were kept under surveillance by intelligence operatives in Lakki Marwat before being ambushed
  • Police officials say the militants belonged to a TTP faction that killed six of their men in the district last December

ISLAMABAD: Security forces have carried out a joint intelligence-based operation in the northwest of Pakistan, said official statements released on Wednesday, killing 12 militants involved in violent activities in the region.

The operation was carried out in Lakki Marwat, an impoverished district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where a proscribed militant network, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), carried out more than 15 percent of attacks last year.

According to the military’s media wing, ISPR, the militants killed in the operation also belonged to same network and were kept under surveillance by intelligence operatives for about a week.

“Terrorists were lured in by providing a vehicle for escape that was intercepted and neutralized,” it added. “Weapons, ammunition and Afghan currency were also recovered from the terrorists during the operation.”

In a separate statement, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police said the militants belonged to TTP’s Azharuddin Group, adding they were on their way to Tank district when they were ambushed by the security forces.

“The terrorists opened fire but the security personnel remained safe,” the statement said. “The police targeted the vehicle with a rocket launcher.”

“Azharuddin Group was involved in terrorist activities against the police in Lakki Marwat,” it continued. “It also martyred six policemen in December.”

The TTP ended a fragile truce with the government last November before stepping up attacks on security forces and resorting to suicide bombings in different parts of the country.

The network leadership is said to be based in Afghanistan, making Pakistani authorities urge the administration in Kabul not to let armed factions use its territory to target other states.


Pakistan among most vulnerable nations as glacial lake floods threaten communities

Updated 08 February 2023

Pakistan among most vulnerable nations as glacial lake floods threaten communities

  • Melting mountain glaciers pose a growing flood risk to some 15 million people around the world
  • Collectively, the world’s glaciers lost about 332 gigatons of ice a year between 2006 and 2016

Melting mountain glaciers pose a growing flood risk to some 15 million people around the world, researchers said in a report published on Tuesday, with communities in Asia facing the biggest danger.

Runoff from melting glaciers often pools in shallow lakes, held back by rocks and debris. The risk comes when a lake overfills, bursting through its natural barrier and sending a torrent of water rushing down mountain valleys.

Scientists have assessed for the first time how many people globally are at risk from these floods, finding that more than half of vulnerable populations live in India, Pakistan, China, and Peru.

Danger is highest, they report in a study published in the journal Nature Communications, when a large number of people live near a lake.

“Our work does not just focus on the size or number of glacier lakes — no disaster is natural — it is the presence of people, especially vulnerable people, in the landscape that causes a disaster,” said Stuart Dunning, a physical geographer at Britain’s Newcastle University, and a co-author of the study.

Collectively, the world’s glaciers lost about 332 gigatons of ice a year between 2006 and 2016. Since 1990, the number and volume of glacial lakes worldwide have each increased by about 50 percent.

In the high mountains of Asia, some 9 million people live near more than 2,000 glacial lakes. In 2021, more than 100 people were killed in India in an outburst flood in its northern mountains.

HEATING UP THE HIMALAYAS

Compared with mountain glaciers in the Alps and North America, Asia’s icy places are not as well monitored — most lack long-term observations of how they have changed over time.

The best-studied glacier in the Himalayas is north India’s Chhota Shigri, which has 20 years of mass balance measurements — the difference between how much ice a glacier gains and loses in a year.

In 2022, India suffered blistering temperatures and near the end of the year, scientists headed into the Himalayas to measure Chhota Shigri’s mass.

Their findings, shared with Reuters, revealed the best-studied glacier in the Himalayas had experienced its worst year on record; Chhota Shigri lost three times as much mass in 2022 compared with its 2002 to 2022 yearly average.

“The impacts are already visible as the glacier is thinning and retreating,” said Farooq Azam, a glaciologist at the Indian Institute of Technology Indore who monitors Chhota Shigri. This will be “impactful to downstream water availability in near future,” he said.

Satellite observations also show that the glaciers in the Himalayas are in a state of overall decline.

“The ice is really melting significantly during the last decades — mass loss is accelerating,” said Tobias Bolch, a glaciologist with Graz University of Technology in Austria.

From 1990 to 2015, glacier coverage in the Himalayas shrank by about 11 percent, according to July 2022 study.

During the same time period, Himalayan glacial lakes increased by about 9 percent in number, and 14 percent in area. More than 200 lakes now pose a very high hazard to Himalayan communities, according to 2022 research.