Glacial outburst destroys strategic bridge connecting Pakistan with China

The picture shows a part of the Hassanabad bridge, in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan, being washed away in the flood on May 7, 2022. (@SajidullahBaig/Twitter)
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Updated 08 May 2022

Glacial outburst destroys strategic bridge connecting Pakistan with China

  • Floodwater damaged over 15 houses, hundreds of trees, cultivated lands as well as two power houses
  • Video of the incident in Hunza went viral on social media, resulted in renewed climate change worries

KHAPLU, GILGIT-BALTISTAN: A glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) has destroyed and swept away a strategic bridge in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, disconnecting it with China and renewing concerns about disastrous effects of climate change in the South Asian country. 

The incident occurred near Hassanabad, a village in Pakistan’s mountainous Hunza valley, on Saturday after Shishper glacier started melting more rapidly. The floodwater destroyed Hassanabad Bridge on the strategic Karakoram Highway (KKH) that links Pakistan to China.  

The GLOF-induced erosion damaged over 15 houses, hundreds of trees, cultivated lands as well as two power houses. 

"Shishper glacier started to move and surge towards an adjacent glacier three years ago and the GLOF phenomenon came into existence," Hunza Assistant Commissioner Abdul Wahab Khan told Arab News on Sunday.  

"Since then, the glacier outbursts in June-July every year. The district administration stood alert with all machinery for mitigation work." 

He said the outburst began at around 8:30am on Saturday morning and the Hassanabad Bridge collapsed when the flow of water reached 8,500 cusecs between 4pm and 4:30pm.  

The incident halted traffic on the KKH from central Hunza to lower parts of the district, however, the local administration opened an alternate route for light traffic through Nagar district. 

"There is no shortage of food and medical supplies, but we are facing a shortage of petroleum [products] due to the collapse of the bridge. We are in contact with PSO (Pakistan State Oil) officials to supply fuel through an alternative route," the assistant commissioner said. 

"The situation is under control and the water discharge is only 700 cusecs. The rehabilitation and restoration work being carried out on war footings."  

On the directives of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Khurram Agha, the National Highway Authority (NHA) chairman, also reached Hunza to examine the situation and damage caused by glacial flooding. 

"On an emergency basis, a compact bridge would be temporarily installed to restore traffic, while a team of experts would visit the site on Monday to prepare the design of the permanent bridge," Agha said. "The permanent bridge would be ready within next seven-eight months." 

Khalid Saleem, the Gilgit-Baltistan Disaster Management Authority director-general, said an alternate route had been opened for tourists and locals, bypassing the GLOF-hit Hassanabad area. He, however, said it had only been opened for light traffic. 

"Work for the restoration of road has begun and alternate arrangements are being made for power supply. A tourist facilitation center has also been established at the Hunza AC (assistant commissioner) office in Aliabad," Saleem said on Twitter. 


Senior PTI leader refuses to cooperate with investigators probing journalist Arshad Sharif’s killing

Updated 26 November 2022

Senior PTI leader refuses to cooperate with investigators probing journalist Arshad Sharif’s killing

  • Murad Saeed, a close aide of Imran Khan, is said to be in possession of the slain journalist’s laptop
  • Saeed says he is willing to share information with a judicial commission formed by the Supreme Court

ISLAMABAD: A senior leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has refused to cooperate with a fact-finding team investigating the circumstances of Arshad Sharif’s murder in Kenya, reported a local news channel on Saturday, while saying the slain journalist’s own family was not satisfied by the government’s probe.
A hugely popular talk show host, Sharif was shot by Kenyan police on October 23 when his vehicle sped up and drove through a checkpoint. Officials in Nairobi expressed regret over the incident, saying it was a case of “mistaken identity” during a search for a car involved in a child abduction case.
The two-member Pakistani fact-finding team, which also visited the African state, questioned the police narrative while calling Sharif “a victim of targeted assassination.”
The team also reached out to Murad Saeed, a senior PTI leader and a close aide of former prime minister Imran Khan, since he was thought to be in possession of Sharif’s laptop while asking him to hand it over to facilitate investigation.
According to Geo News, however, Saeed declined to cooperate with the team.
“In his letter to the fact-finding committee written on November 21,” the news channel said, “Saeed expressed reservations and refused to cooperate with the fact-finding committee.”
“The mother of Shaheed [martyr] Arshad Sharif has already expressed her reservations and concerns with respect to investigation into assassination of her son by the current government,” the PTI leader was quoted as saying in his correspondence with the team. “She has appealed for justice and expressed dissatisfaction over the [government] of Pakistan’s handling of the matter. She clearly stated: ‘I have no faith in the Pakistani government.’”
The fact-finding team had said in a written message to Saeed that its probe had revealed that he was “in possession of Apple MacBook of the deceased senior journalist Arshad Sharif.”
“Therefore, you are requested to provide the device of the deceased enabling the fact-finding team to ascertain the facts regarding [his] assassination,” the channel reported.
It added one of the team members requested Saeed to cooperate, saying the team had to present its report to the Human Rights Cell of the Supreme Court after being directed to do so.
In response, the PTI leader said in his note he was “willing to appear before the judicial commission constituted by the august Supreme Court and present all the information he has with respect to the matter.”


Pakistan reviews progress on Reko Diq deal to avoid $9 billion penalty

Updated 26 November 2022

Pakistan reviews progress on Reko Diq deal to avoid $9 billion penalty

  • The plenty will be waived off if the agreed implementation arrangements are made by December 15
  • The government also invited the opinion of the top court by filing a presidential reference over the issue

KARACHI: Pakistan on Saturday reviewed progress on the implementation of agreed steps for the completion of Reko Diq deal to avoid a massive penalty of $9 billion imposed by the international arbitration court.
Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Ishaq Dar chaired a meeting of the apex committee on Reko Diq Project, said an official statement, to stress upon an early completion of the remaining steps under the agreed arrangement.
The government is facing a strict deadline of December 15 to take all the measures agreed under a settlement with the mining companies working on the project.
“The meeting was informed that after the advice of the Supreme Court on a reference already filed is received, necessary legislative steps would be taken for which the relevant provinces would be fully on board,” said the statement issued by the finance ministry.
The provincial administrations have also assured to complete all the codal formalities within the due date.
The Reko Diq project is implemented in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province which is said to have one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits. The project was suspended in 2011 after Pakistan denied the Tethyan Copper Company, a joint venture between Barrick Gold of Canada and Antofagasta Minerals of Chile, license to continue work.
The country’s Supreme Court blocked the Tethyan Copper Company in 2013 from developing Reko Diq following a court case on how the contract had been awarded.
However, the country reached an out-of-court settlement with the mining firms in March this year to avoid paying the $9 billion penalty announced by the World Bank’s arbitration court, and the government said it was hopeful that Barrick and its partners would invest $10 billion in the project.
The federal cabinet approved filing a presidential reference in the Supreme Court on September 30 for the revival of the project, asking the court if its earlier judgment, the constitution, laws or public policy prevented the federal or provincial government of Balochistan to enter into the Reko Diq agreements or affect their validity.
The lawyer for Barrack Gold recently informed the Supreme Court if the company’s agreement with Pakistan was finalized by December 15, the $9 billion penalty on the country would be quashed.
The company’s lawyer, Makhdoom Ali Khan, said about $4 billion investment would also be made in the project.
Saturday’s meeting led by the finance minister noted that the successful completion of the agreed arrangement by the deadline would add to the confidence of international investors.
The revival of Reko Diq project is expected to give a fillip to the economy by creating a more positive investment sentiment and increasing employment opportunities in the country.


Military says its forces killed nine insurgents in southwest Pakistan

Updated 26 November 2022

Military says its forces killed nine insurgents in southwest Pakistan

  • Balochistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by separatist groups
  • After ‘hours-long’ shootout, the security forces also arrested three wounded suspects

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani security forces shot and killed nine alleged insurgents Saturday during a raid on their hideout in southwestern Baluchistan province, the military said.
A military statement said security forces conducted a raid on members of the separatist Baluchistan Liberation Army in the province’s Kohlu district. They had received information that militants involved in a recent attack on security forces in Baluchistan and a bombing in Kohlu Bazaar that killed two civilians and wounded 19 in September were hiding and planning more attacks.
There was no immediate statement from the BLA and an attempt to reach its spokesman was not immediately successful.
The military said that as security forces surrounded them, the militants opened fire starting an hourslong shootout that ended in the deaths of nine insurgents and the arrest of three wounded suspects. A search operation was underway in the area to eliminate any other militant hideout, it said.
The military provided no further details.
Baluchistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by the Baluchistan Liberation Army and other small separatist groups demanding independence from the central government in Islamabad.
Although Pakistan claims it has quelled the insurgency, violence in the province has persisted.


At Rawalpindi protest rally, Pakistan’s ousted PM announces his party will quit all assemblies

Updated 26 November 2022

At Rawalpindi protest rally, Pakistan’s ousted PM announces his party will quit all assemblies

  • Imran Khan says he ‘failed to bring the powerful under the law’ since accountability was overlooked by the ‘establishment’
  • The former prime minister says he is proud of his country’s armed forces, though they should not be considered above criticism

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan announced on Saturday his party would not remain part of the “corrupt” political system of the country and resign from all assemblies to intensify pressure on the coalition government to call early elections.
Khan, who is also the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote in April after losing parliamentary majority. Since then, he has held several anti-government rallies across Pakistan and was expected by some of his workers to announce a march on the Islamabad which he decided to avoid “to circumvent chaos.”
The former prime minister asked PTI legislators in the National Assembly to resign after the downfall of his administration, though his lawmakers continued to stay in the Senate and provincial assemblies.
“We have decided to quit from all the assemblies,” Khan told a rally of his workers and supporters in Rawalpindi after reiterating that his government was driven out of power as a result of a foreign conspiracy. “We will leave this corrupt system.”
Khan, who addressed the gathering while sitting in his chair behind a bulletproof glass after surviving an apparent bid on his life while leading a protest march initiated last month, said he had practiced politics for 26 years while staying within the legal and constitutional ambit.
He said he would have a word with his chief ministers and hold parliamentary party meetings to discuss his decision of leaving the assemblies.
Khan’s political faction remains in power in two politically significant provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa despite losing his government at the center.
PTI administrations also rule Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, though the two territories have no public representation in the National Assembly or the Senate of Pakistan.
While some government functionaries said Khan’s allies in Punjab would not dissolve the assembly, Moonis Elahi, the province’s chief minister’s son who is also thought to be close to Khan, announced on Twitter the former prime minister’s instructions would be followed.

 

 

According to Pakistan’s constitution, the governor of a province can dissolve its assembly after getting the advice of its chief minister.
This was Khan’s first public appearance since he getting shot in the legs in Wazirabad city earlier this month. He arrived in Rawalpindi in a helicopter this afternoon to address the anti-government march.
Khan told his supporters it was not easy to travel with bullet wounds which would take at least three more months to heal, though he added he had still decided to call the rally since the country was at a crossroads.
“You are facing two different paths,” he continued. “One of them will take you to blessings and freedom. The other one will lead to destruction and slavery.”
He criticized the incumbent government for destroying the national economy and deliberately weakening state institutions, calling its leaders a bunch of “thieves” who did not care whether the country was going bankrupt or not.
The PTI chief reiterated the only way out of the current political and economic turmoil of the country was to hold snap polls, though he accused his rivals of running away from such political contest since “they are fearful of their defeat.”
He said the PTI administration was the only government in the country that had tried to work for the well-being of people.
“What crime did we commit that our government was brought down,” he asked.
Khan said he only remained unsuccessful on one count during his three-year rule.
“I failed in bringing the powerful under the law,” he continued. “The National Accountability Bureau was not under me. It was reporting to the establishment.”
The PTI chief maintained every time he brought up the issue of accountability, he was asked to focus on the economy.
“Those who had the power did not think corruption was bad,” he said in an oblique reference to the country’s military leadership.
Khan added he was proud that Pakistan’s armed forces were the strongest in the Muslim world, though he maintained they should not consider themselves above criticism.


Pakistan’s former PM arrives in Rawalpindi to address first protest rally since being shot

Updated 26 November 2022

Pakistan’s former PM arrives in Rawalpindi to address first protest rally since being shot

  • Imran Khan has been calling for early elections in the country since being ousted from power in April
  • Pakistan’s interior minister has asked him to return to parliament, discuss snap polls with government

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s former minister Imran Khan arrived in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in a helicopter on Saturday to address thousands of people at his first public appearance since being shot during an anti-government march earlier this month near Wazirabad city.
Khan, who was ousted from power in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April, has held several protest rallies across Pakistan in a bid to pressure the government to announce snap polls. The government has refused his demand in the past while saying the general elections will be held as per schedule toward the end of next year.
Last month, the former prime minister kicked off his “long march” from the eastern city of Lahore to Pakistan’s federal capital to mount further pressure on the ruling administration, though his motorized caravan had to discontinue its journey after a gun attack that killed one person and injured Khan along with his ten other supporters.
Khan invited workers and supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to reach Rawalpindi in a video message in which he said he was going to come to the venue himself despite bring injured.
“PTI Chairman Imran Khan has arrived in Rawalpindi via helicopter,” Dawn newspaper reported in its live updates.
Earlier, Pakistan’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah asked the former prime minister to return to parliament and hold a dialogue with the government and its allies for early elections.
“Don’t be obstinate,” he said in a Twitter post. “If you want a date for the election, then act like a politician, sit with other politicians [and] have a dialogue.”
“Come back and become part of parliament,” he continued. “Let the political and democratic process go forward.”
Sanaullah also asked the former prime minister to postpone his anti-government rally during a news conference on Friday, saying intelligence agencies had warned that a militant attack could target the gathering.
Prior to that, the provincial government in Punjab, which Rawalpindi is a part of, said it had made arrangements to provide “foolproof” security to Khan and his protest rally.